There was intense courtroom drama this morning as the cousin of one of the two soldiers charged with the racist murder of Lassana Cisse Souleymane was grilled by criminal lawyers Franco Debono and Giannella de Marco.
De Marco is representing Francesco Fenech, 21, while Debono is representing his friend Lorin Scicluna, 22.
The lawyers’ strategies were clear in today’s sitting – to use Dylan German’s testimony to try and throw each other’s clients under the bus.
German testified that he lives in the same Marsaskala street as his cousin Francesco Fenech and that he first met Lorin Scicluna on 20th April, two weeks after the murder of Cisse Souleymane.
German said that Fenech and Scicluna had needed his help to jumpstart a car, which was parked in their street. From there on, German and Scicluna developed a friendship, particularly bonding over their passion for shooting.
The shooting range
German’s testimony that he and Scicluna had visited the Ħandaq shooting range together prompted a round of interrogation. De Marco demanded to know how good a shot Scicluna was, to which Debono immediately interjected that this was a matter of opinion.
De Marco then clarified her question to ask whether Scicluna had hit the target, to which German responded in the affirmative.
Debono then asked him to expand on Scicluna’s shooting success rate, a question German was unable to respond except to state that Sciclunahd fired over 100 shots and hadn’t always hit the target.
German said that Scicluna had approached him in his garage to ask his help to burst the barrel of a handgun, a move that would have destroyed the rifling and made it impossible to prove what ammunition had passed through it. However, German refused as it was too dangerous and asked Scicluna why he had made this request.
He said Scicluna came clean about the murder, but said that Fenech was with him at the time.
“I thought he included Francesco’s name because he was scared that I would report him to the police otherwise,” German said.
German said he confronted Fenech with the allegation the following day, but his cousin vehemently denied it. However, he did admit that he and Scicluna had beaten up a migrant in Ħal Far on a previous occasion.
Debono grilled German on whether he was sure Fenech wasn’t present and whether he had entered his garage later on that day.
“He definitely wasn’t present when Lorin admitted to me,” German said.
“Try and remember whether he was with you later on that day,” Debono pressed.
“I don’t remember…I just know he definitely wasn’t present when Lorin admitted to me,” German responded.
“We’re talking about a few months ago not a few years ago,” Debono insisted. “Please make an effort to remember and recollect your memories. You have given us so many memories; how can you not remember this?”
After Debono’s grilling, De Marco stepped up with a single question: “Were you and Lorin alone when he said he shot at the migrants and that Francesco was with him?”
“Yes, we were alone…just as Francesco and I were by ourselves when I confronted him,” German responded.
The racist comment
German testified that Scicluna had passed a racist comment when the two of them were driving and passed a man who seemed like an Arab. However, he couldn’t remember exactly what Scicluna said, only that it was racist and made him wonder whether he was a Nazi.
“If I remember well, [Scicluna] had said ‘Look at those…’, followed by an expletive, but I can’t remember what that expletive was.”
Asked by De Marco, German said Fenech never displayed any racist or violent tendencies with him.
However, Debono challenged him on this.
“You described Lorin as a racist because he passed a comment that you don’t even remember in a location that you don’t even remember. Yet Francesco admitted to you that he had fought with a migrant, so how didn’t you even suspect that he was a racist?”
German responded that he did harbour suspicions, which is why he approached Fenech in the first place, but that Scicluna had passed a racist comment to him directly.
It later emerged that police had arrested German along with Scicluna and Fenech and that he was temporarily present in the interrogation room when police were questioning Fenech.
Initially, German insisted that he had only confronted Fenech with what Scicluna had told him in his garage (ie. that they had killed Cisse Souleymane) but that Fenech kept denying it.
However, police inspector Keith Arnaud said that German had told his cousin something else in relation to the case and asked him to repeat it, noting that the entire interrogation has been recorded.
German eventually admitted that, during the interrogation, he had confronted Fenech about how [Fenech] had also admitted to him about the shooting. However, he said he lied because he was under shock after being arrested for a crime he didn’t commit.
Debono pounced on this comment to suggest that German may have actually told the truth during the interrogation and lied under oath in court.
“You’re saying you were shocked. You were in the police depot, in the presence of Inspector Arnaud, and you accused your cousin in his face that he had admitted to such a serious crime. Do you understand how serious your declaration is?”
“Yes, I do understand now, but I was under shock back then and my mind wasn’t functioning well,” German said.
“Maybe Francesco really told you what you claimed during the interrogation,” Debono suggested.
“No, that’s not true,” German insisted. “I lied because I was under shock.”
“Out of respect to your cousin, didn’t you feel like you should have admitted this lie to the police or a lawyer to avoid your cousin getting into serious trouble?” Debono asked.
“Yes, I did feel like I should have done that but I was scared I’d just create more problems, German said.
“Or perhaps you didn’t correct your statement because it was the truth,” Debono said. “I’m suggesting you told the truth back then and not now.”