Left: Liam Debono, Right: Police officer Simon Schembri
The defence lawyer of Liam Debono, the 17-year-old charged with the attempted murder of policeman Simon Schembri, questioned why the policeman stopped his client from giving an interview to Xarabank.
“I want Simon Schembri to explain how he agreed to be interviewed on Xarabank but then tried to silence [Liam Debono] as soon as he tried to speak up,” Franco Debono said. “This is who Simon Schembri is! He stepped in front of the airing of the interview just like he stepped in front of the car [in the hit-and run].”
Xarabank had interviewed both Debono and Schembri as part of its coverage on the hit-and-run in Luqa earlier this year, but Schembri filed a legal application objecting to Debono’s interview as soon as he had found out about it. Magistrate Joe Mifsud, who is presiding over the attempted murder case, upheld Schembri’s request and ordered Xarabank not to air the interview, arguing that he wanted to avoid a trial by media. Xarabank TV host Peppi Azzopardi insisted his interview with Debono had nothing to do with the case and denounced Mifsud’s order as a gagging order with severe implications for press freedom.
In court today, Franco Debono filed a request for Schembri to return to the witness stand so that he could answer for his ‘gagging order’ on Xarabank, a request that was upheld by the court.
“Why wasn’t it also an exercise in publicity and in bad taste when [Schembri] agreed to be interviewed?” he asked, denouncing the “sheer hypocrisy” of the situation. “Liam Debono has repeatedly been portrayed as a monster in this courtroom but an eyewitness told us that Schembri had stepped out in front of his moving vehicle. Now we have a chance to analyse Schembri’s character.”
The magistrate insisted that the accused has a right to remain silent through the court proceedings and that he shouldn’t be allowed to voice his opinion while the case is still ongoing.