It was always going to be a difficult day for Ibrahim Bah, one of the survivors of the racist drive-by shooting in Ħal Far last April that left Lassana Cisse Souleymane dead, as he came face to face with the two young soldiers suspected of shooting him for the first time.
However, the Guinean national’s testimony turned into a translation nightmare as he struggled to understand the questions relayed to him by his court-appointed French translator.
Translator Anthony Licari admitted that he was struggling to understand Bah’s dialect and, as a result, his testimony of that fateful night dragged on for over an hour.
It descended into comical scenes at one point when homicide investigator Keith Arnaud asked Bah to confirm the colour of the car in the drive-by shooting. When Bah responded ‘blanc’ (white) and the translator didn’t comment, magistrate Ian Farrugia, whose French was good enough to understand that word, asked why he just kept staring at him.
Licari responded that he expected Bah to say ‘blanche’, the French feminine word for ‘white’.
“You’re telling me that you’re staring at me because you’re expecting him to use the French that is used by Macron and I don’t know who else?”
“This victim has passed through a trauma, his French isn’t standard and has a dialect, so please just try to give a faithful translation of the question and the response.”
“He said ‘blan’, which could have been some type of onomatopoeia,” Licari responded.
Through his translator, Bah said that he moved to Malta around eight months ago upon the advice of a friend who said there was no racism on the island. On 6th April, he went out to watch a football game in Birżebbugia and, at 10:30pm, left the premises to go home with his friend Mohammed Diallo, who back then both lived in a building close to the Ħal Far open centre.
When they heard Cisse Souleymane getting gunned down further down the road, Diallo initially dismissed the sounds as someone firing petards. However, a car soon approached Bah and Diallo, and shots were fired from it, hitting both men.
Francesco Fenech, 21, and Lorin Scicluna, 22, both of whom were soldiers with the Armed Forces of Malta, have been formally charged with the murder of Cisse Souleymane and the attempted murder of Bah and Diallo.
Cover photo: Ibrahim Bah walking into court today