Christopher Bartolo, who’s currently in prison and whose kidney condition is rapidly deteriorating while behind bars has today asked President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca to grant him bail while he waits for an appeal about his case to be heard by the courts.
Christopher’s request, although rarely used is according to the law as it allows the president to grant a person bail in “special cases”, it also allows the President to allow any conditions as she deems fit.
As stated by the Times of Malta this morning, this clearly highlights the problem with having the attorney general who is both public prosecutor and legal advisor to the state. This means that should the President want to consult for an opinion, she will be consulting with the same person that is prosecuting Christopher.
Christopher Bartolo, 36, was sentenced to a five-year jail sentence last April on cannabis trafficking charges. He was caught with 167 grams of the drug and arrested right after spending six hours hooked up to a dialysis machine at hospital. Allegedly, Police interrogating Mr Bartolo got him to admit to having trafficked the same amount a few times totalling to 1.5kg of cannabis, and that admission led to him being locked up for a five-year stretch. This was done without having access for a lawyer during his interrogation.
In fact a constitutional court last month found that the police had violated Mr Bartolo’s right to a fair hearing by denying him access to a lawyer during the interrogation,
According to Christopher Bartolo he used cannabis to self-medicate, with the plant easing his pain and allowing him to sleep more effectively than the pills prescribed to him this is because Christopher Bartolo suffers from failing kidneys and he had received a kidney transplant some years ago.
Earlier in April the court ordered that his statement to the police be struck from record and it gave him the chance to reverse his admission of guilt despite the ruling, Mr Bartolo remains locked behind bars.
This is because the courts have rejected his request to be granted bail while the attorney general’s appeal to the ruling plays out in the courts.
Since entering prison, his donated kidney has failed and Mr Bartolo has been forced to return to dialysis treatment. Currently Mr. Bartolo needs to be hooked up to the dialysis machine for 6 hours every two days!
Christopher Bartolo’s lawyers have now delved deep into Malta’s criminal code and turned to the Office of the President for help. In a letter sent to President Coleiro Preca’s office, Mr Bartolo’s lawyer Franco Debono noted that his client had always stuck to bail conditions when his criminal trial was underway, and said that Mr Bartolo would gladly abide by any bail conditions imposed on him by the President. Dr Debono cited Mr Bartolo’s precarious medical condition and the requirement for special care and dietary needs, saying that as well as a legal anomaly, this was a “humanitarian” case.
The letter also highlights the anomaly of having the Attorney General as the person that will assist the President as described above.
Speaking to Christopher Bartolo’s partner yesterday evening she confirmed that they are not asking for a pardon, but the opportunity to be allowed bail so that he can argue his case in court while at the same time he can be provided the medical care he needs in a dignified and safe environment.
In my personal and honest opinion, I believe that the President knows the right way forward. Christopher Bartolo is not a danger to society. Unfortunately he’s a very sick man that needs 6 hours of treatment every two days and his health is continuously on the decline.
As a country that is gearing up to celebrate the love and joy of Christmas, I urge the President that she acts on her compassionate nature and allows Christopher Bartolo to be given the bail that he’s requesting in order to be able to be given the treatment that he desperately needs in an environment that won’t further hinder his very precious health.