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Maltese hunter charged in court with assault

Axel Hirschfeld being assaulted by Daid BriffaAlthough 21 September was a public holiday in Malta to celebrate the 46th anniversary of Independence, the Court of Justice was in session that day to hear the case of a 48-year-old man accused of assaulting and injuring the media officer of the German Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS).

David Briffa, a member of the Maltese hunters' federation, was accused of hitting Axel Hirschfeld in the face, causing him slight injuries.

The alleged incident took place during a heated argument about hunting at the same time when Fiona Burrows, a bird guard from Britain, was also assaulted by two men.

Mr Hirschfeld stated in court that he was with a group of CABS bird guards looking for dead protected birds at Mizieb. This is an area where legal hunting can take place during the open season. Hirschfeld explained that he had seen the accused arguing with Andre Raine, who is an officer of Birdlife Malta and when he approached them Briffa angrily complained that no police were present during the searches.

Mr Hirschfeld replied that members of the Administrative Law Enforcement police and independent foreign journalists were present on site. He said that then the accused hurled insults against him and against Germany and hit him in the face.

Mr Hirschfeld explained that this was the first time CABS had felt the need to hire a private security firm for its protection, and that it was a private security officer who pulled the accused away.

Inspector Paul Bond told the court that the accused in his police statement had said that he tried to grab a camera from Mr Hirschfeld because they were filming him and had refused to stop, and he hit him in the face by mistake.

Earlier, the court upheld a defence complaint that the accused should not have been arraigned under arrest since he was only accused of contraventions.

The case will continue on 20 October.