A man from Lithuania, currently detained at Corradino prison on charges of conspiracy to drug trafficking, claims the Maltese courts have discriminated against him by denying bail when other foreign suspects were granted bail on identical charges.
Thomas Mikalauskas, 29 from Kedainiai, Lithuania, was arrested last September along with a number of other suspects in connection with a ‘record’ haul of 500kg of cannabis last September.
Also charged were Malta Olympic boxing trainer Scott Dixon, Serbian-born Jovica Kolakovic, 52, and 28-year-old Maltese national Kevin Sammut. Two other suspects – Sheri Anne Steedman, 38, and Jason Lee Holland, 39, both from the UK – were last week sentenced to 35 and 42 months respectively.
However, while all the other suspects were initially granted bail by Magistrate Miriam Hayman, Mikalauskas was the only one remanded in custody at Corradino. The decision to deny bail was upheld by the Appeals Court.
In what is emerging as a recognisable pattern among complaints by foreign nationals arrested locally, Mikalauskas lists a number of apparent anomalies in Malta’s detention and arrest procedure system – a system currently under review by parliament.
Among the multiple alleged breaches of fundamental human rights are the following: detention for an excessive period of time without any reasonable evidence of a crime having been committed; lack of access to legal assistance before or during police interrogation; lack of any interpreter during interrogation (which he claims was in Maltese); denial of necessary medical treatment for a life-threatening medical condition; and that no attempt was made to inform his next of kin of his arrest.
“I was arrested and brought to police headquarters for questioning, I was never given chance to have a lawyer represent me as upon request I was told it was not allowed, questioning was in a foreign language and an interpreter was also not allowed,” he writes in his submission to the European Court of Human Rights.
“Not to say that I was kept there for two days without letting me or themselves inform my family what was happening to me.”
Mikalauskas also claims to suffer from a medical condition requiring regular therapy, which he has been denied since September. “I have dilation of cerebral blood vessel, which is highly dangerous. If person is in stress there is huge possibility that he can die.”
Meanwhile, Lithuania’s Rome-based ambassador to Italy, Peter Zapolskas, has expressed concern for the welfare of his co-national, who transpires to be the son of a well-known Lithuanian composer. “T. Mikalauskas is a sensitive and trusting person: he has got some health problems since childhood,” he wrote in a letter to the Maltese authorities in December.
“By the people who know him personally T. Mikalauskas is described as an honest individual. I would like to ask you to take into consideration these facts when deciding on Mr T. Mikaluaskas’ release on bail.”
Contacted by this newspaper, a spokesman for the Justice Minister explained that the procedures governing bail allow full discretion to the magistrate presiding over the case concerned.
By Raphael Vassallo