The lawyers of three teenagers (the “El Hiblu Three”) have requested their release on bail, precisely seven months after the first unsuccessful request, with Judge Aaron Bugeja finally granting the request on November 15.
On March 26, the three young men had been rescued from a rubber boat in distress in the central Mediterranean by the commercial tanker El Hiblu 1 in international waters off Malta. After the 108 passengers of the rubber boat, spotted by an EUNAVFOR MED aircraft, had been recovered safely and embarked onto the tanker, panic arose among the rescues when they realized the vessel was steering towards Libya. Some even threatened to jump overboard in desperate attempts to avoid being taken back to the war torn country they had escaped from.
The crew of the El Hiblu 1, complying with international law, eventually changed course towards Malta as the nearest place of safety. Upon reaching Maltese territorial waters on March 27, 2019 the El Hiblu 1 was stormed by a Special Operations Unit of the Armed Forces of Malta. Subsequently, the three minors, aged 15, 16 and 19 at the time, were arrested and charged with several major crimes, including piracy and terrorism. The ‘crime’ these young men are accused of comes down to this: saving their own lives and those of 105 other passengers from illegal push backs to the same Libyan torture camps they had escaped from.
Their trial comes at a time when government sources have eventually confirmed what we have been witnessing for weeks: a dirty deal between Malta and Libya in plac