Popular television presenter and prisoners’ rights activist Peppi Azzopardi has accused the Maltese government of lying in an attempt to cover up what he described as a culture of “terrorism” that dominates the country’s prison.
Azzopardi was a guest on Lovin Daily where he spoke about the events leading up to the death of Colin Galea, an inmate who died on Monday after attempting suicide in his cell last week.
The Xarabank presenter has been in contact with Galea’s family and has refuted claims by the prison’s administration that Galea had never shown any suicidal tendencies. He also insisted that Galea had been placed in solitary confinement despite this having been denied.
Asked whether he was saying that the government was outright lying to the public, Azzopardi said he was.
“Yes, I am saying that they are lying and I take responsibility for what I am saying. If you aren’t lying, sue me,” Azzopardi said.
He pointed to the fact that Galea had on a number of occasions, including during a previous stay at the prison, declared that he was having suicidal thoughts, with Azzopardi questioning how no record of this was available.
He accused the prison’s administration of a reign of terror and cruelty, pointing to a poster that had been revealed to be hanging in the prison corridors reading: ‘Our job is to teach fear. Welcome to prison’.
“We don’t need any inquiries. This is how this man [prison director colonel Alex Dalli] is running things. Through terrorism. He terrorises people,” Azzopardi said.
Asked why, then, if Dalli’s administration was such a problem, was the ministry defending him and standing by him, despite all the criticism.
“Believe me when I say I don’t know. The Prime Minister used to represent Caritas and used to defend these people. I don’t know what has happened now. I don’t know how to answer,” he said, adding that the Prime Minister’s wife Lydia also worked closely with the families of prisoners.
“If they are seeing some other reality that we cannot see then they should let us go and see for ourselves.”
Malta’s prison has long since been a problem, with stories of drug abuse and inhumane conditions having become a mainstay of press reports about the prison.
Despite this, Azzopardi said he could not agree that the ongoing discussion was conflating two separate issues, namely the need for reform of Malta’s prison system and the practices introduced by the present prison director.
“No, I don’t agree. They’re the same thing. The supposed socialist, leftist government is taking a decision to leave the administration and is defending it,” Azzopardi said.
While he acknowledged that the situation in prison has always been bad, it has never been as cruel.
He spoke about the use of the so-called punishment chair, which Azzopardi described as unnecessary and solely intended to ridicule and embarrass the person. “Is this right? These are scandals and it isn’t right for these things to be done to people.”
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