Relief has finally come for Christopher Bartolo, a man with no kidneys who has been languishing in prison on cannabis trafficking charges for almost a year.
“”On behalf of Christopher Bartolo I would like to thank the cabinet for this decision as well as the President of the Republic and the Head of the Opposition for the interest he showed. One now needs to respect the seriousness and solemnity of the pending judicial procedures and show full respect towards the independence of the Judiciary,” said Dr Franco Debono, the lawyer representing Mr Bartolo.
After seeking medical advice, Cabinet ruled today that Bartolo deserves to be bailed out on humanitarian grounds on condition that he doesn’t leave home except for special circumstances. His bail will last pending the conclusion of an appeal filed in court by the Attorney General against a judge’s constitutional ruling that Bartolo’s right to a fair trial was breached as he was denied access to a lawyer during police interrogation.
Police had found Bartolo in possession of 167g of cannabis resin, which the patient used to self-medicate, and arrested him right after a lengthy dialysis session. During the interrogation, police officers got him to admit he had actually trafficked 1.5g of weed – an admission that saw Bartolo thrown into prison for five years.
While locked up, Bartolo lost his donated kidney, allegedly because prison staff didn’t give him his anti-rejection pills on time. He also reportedly spent last summer in a cell without air-conditioning or a fan, circumstances that could bring on renal failure.
In November, Judge Jacqueline Padovani Grima ruled that Bartolo should be allowed to change his guilty plea as he had been denied access to a lawyer during police interrogations. She also said she was “extremely concerned” at how the police had failed to keep any records as to whether the kidney transplant patient had been given food and water before his interrogation.
However, Attorney General Peter Grech filed an appeal, and Bartolo’s requests for bail have been denied pending the outcome of that case.