Cracking down on dissent

“I stand by every word that I have said, not only do I not repent, but I am proud of it”.  These were the defiant words of Vladimir Kara Murza at the end of his trial. On 17 April he was sentenced to the maximum 25-year jail term.  His crime – telling the truth.

Kara Murza, a vocal critic of Vladimir Putin, called the Ukraine war a war. For that, he was accused of treason. He was labelled an enemy of the state, a traitor. Now where have we heard those accusations before?

Kara Murza’s trial followed a year of unlawful detention during which he wasn’t allowed to see or speak to his wife and three children. That trial was held behind closed doors. It was hastily concluded. It took minutes to find him guilty and condemn him to 25 years imprisonment.

The length of that sentence was described as Stalinist by Yan Rachinsky, the chair of Memorial, a now-outlawed Russian human rights group.

Kara Murza’s real crime was that he stood up to Putin.  He was awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize for his efforts.

He spoke out against the Ukraine war. He denounced Putin for transforming Russia from an imperfect democracy to a perfect authoritarian state.

Putin doesn’t tolerate dissent.  Kara Murza had already survived two assassination attempts in 2015 and 2017. Now his fate is sealed. He’ll be dispatched to a correctional colony where his life will no doubt be in jeopardy.

Kara Murza’s barbaric treatment was intended to break him. Yet, after a whole year of incarceration and complete isolation from his family, he was as defiant as ever.

After his sentencing, he announced, “Such is the price of speaking up in Russia today. Our society will open its eyes and shudder when it realises what crimes were committed in its name”.

But his message was not one of hopelessness.  “I believe our country can one day be truthful, and that day will come as surely as spring follows the iciest of winters,” he concluded.

Kara Murza’s harassment, intimidation and incarceration are intended to silence those who oppose Putin.  His sentence is aimed at persuading Putin’s foes to abandon hope.

Putin is compelled to use intimidation and repression against his people. And that can only mean one thing – he is losing control.

Closer to home, harassment and intimidation are becoming routine. Labour is wielding those same weapons to combat dissent and silence critics.

The latest shameful act of intimidation involved the case of the young friend of JeanPaul Sofia, who was spot checked and escorted away to a police station for interrogation.  The 24-year-old’s crime was to call for justice for his friend’s death.

He hung a banner saying ‘Justice for Jean Paul Sofia’.

His real crime was standing up to Robert Abela’s suspicious rejection of a public inquiry into Sofia’s death.  Despite the clamour for a public inquiry, Abela stubbornly refuses to listen. Unmoved even by the grieving mother’s pleas, Abela accused her of allowing herself to be used for political purposes.

Now Abela’s police force is back to its dirty tactics. In another amazingly swift response, the 24-year-old was escorted to a police station. PN MP Karol Aquilina’s intervention on behalf of the young man ensured his release from police custody.

But the police’s heavy-handedness with the young man is clearly intended to send a message. If you do this, the same thing will happen to you.

Labour is using intimidatory tactics to suppress dissent. It’s using all its power to silence those who dare reveal the truth.

The lightning speed with which police concluded investigations into Mark Camilleri after he published Rosianne Cutajar’s chats left everybody stunned. It revealed how quickly Labour will weaponise the institutions for the harassment of its critics – even when they hail from their own party.

That same swift police action was taken against Giovann Vella, a Gozitan contractor who accused Evarist Bartolo’s canvasser Edward Caruana of soliciting a €30,000 bribe. Instead of investigating Caruana, the police charged the contractor with slander within 48 hours. He faced years of court hearings and intimidation before he was acquitted of all charges.

But the contractor’s ordeal sent a chilling message to all other contractors – this is what will happen to you if you speak the truth.

So effective was that message that another contractor who told the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools CEO and COO that Caruana had asked for a 3% cut or a truckload of tiles quickly withdrew his allegations claiming he had been misunderstood.

MUMN President Paul Pace was another victim of Labour’s persecution.  Manuel Cuschieri, Labour’s inquisitor, made serious allegations about Pace that were perfectly timed amid the union’s industrial dispute with the government over nurses’ conditions.

Cuschieri levelled accusations against Pace that he was making claims for overtime payment while holidaying in Egypt.  Cuschieri threatened he would reveal more about Pace in future.  The Ministry of Health pounced. To make maximum capital out of the convenient “revelations”, the ministry announced it would be investigating those allegations.

If those allegations prove to be false, the damage would have been done. If those allegations prove to be true, somebody would have leaked them with malicious intent, timed to cause maximum damage.

Robert Aquilina was publicly denounced by the Justice Minister at a press conference for publishing documents showing the police and Attorney General perverted the course of justice to protect the daughter of Robert Abela’s canvasser.

Robert Abela himself contacted then-Tax Commissioner Marvin Gaerty to discuss Opposition Leader Bernard Grech’s taxes. He claimed he was passing on information to the tax commissioner. But which Prime Minister would engage in such dirty tactics?

Malta might not be Russia, yet. But both countries have seen institutions bend over backwards to the will of their leader, dissenters harassed and intimidated and government critics assassinated.

Malta is not the perfect authoritarian state yet. But it’s certainly heading that way.


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1 month ago

We you have lived through the Mintoff ‘golden’ era of the 70’s and 80’s had experience of this. Up till recently, Labour tried to look as if it didn’t punish disent, although this being Malta we know that they can get back at you in more subtle ways.
However, since the Hospitals Court case even that fake veneer of respectability is vanishing.
Labour is with its back to the wall and so it get nasty, which was always, since Mintoff times, its nature.

1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

I only know about that time from the history books and that alone was enough to get the impression of what the MLP really was and the PL still is. Just as you said.

1 month ago

The judge who condemned Kara Murza to 25 years was apparently also getting even with Murza. Murza had asked for him to be put on the sanctions list!
Obviously, under Putin, judges are chosen with due care!

1 month ago

The writing has been on the wall for a long time and now the paint has dried, the signs become more obvious.

Malta is on course back to the Mintoff era, slowly but continually which the examples mentioned in this article just highlight. When I recall all the previous articles of the past couple of years, people telling the media about intimidation by PLers before the last GE in order to force them to either vote for the PL or face the consequences, it all adds up to the conclusion that nothing really changed at the core of this party. The PL is nothing but the old MLP in new clothes or a polished facade.

As for Mark Camilleri, he was again in the news recently, still having his axe to grin with the NBC and announced to set up his own events, run by himself. It is set to take part in October. I wonder how he will manage that, given that he is living abroad in order to avoid being aprehended when he enters Malta. Looks to be a difficult undertaking for him, unless he would run his own events virtually, which isn’t quite the same as to have it in presence. Given the way how promptly the institutions worked on demand of the PL govt, he might consider himself being a ‘fugitive’ already, in the light of all what happened.

This is the result of another landslide victory in the last GE and the price to be paid by all those voters who casted their vote for the PL. Was it all foreseeable? Hard to think because one was, sadly to say, rather accostomed to all the scandals before that GE. Also, one either must have had a deep distrust towards the PL all along, deeply rooted by experiences, or have a crystal ball that tells the future. Either way, this reminds one of the times during the Mintoff era when the PN in opposition walked out of Parliament in protest to the Mintoff govt and abstained from sessions for a considerable time.

Such actions didn’t bother Mintoff back then and it wouldn’t bother Abela now either, rather having it cosy and without the opposition party doing its duty, to control the government. Meanwhile, the PL would be unhindered to protect its cronies.

That it takes the efforts of a PN MP to get one out of police custody is indeed a new development. One shouldn’t expect any empathy even from the average PLer, as they look at dissidents as being some sort of an ‘enemy’. It all can be compared to the Stalinist SU, but it is in fact a re-development to the Mintoff era. A de facto authoritarian regime without any constitutional alterations. Such was the way during the Mintoff times, and that is what the PL is doing for years by now, undermining every effort that threatens their grip on power. It has nothing to do with the principles of a democratic republic, but all with partisanship at its worst.

I often noticed a lack of sense for democracy and its principles among the PLers because they have, by their own comments and admitance, shown that they prefer a strong leader to a democratic one. No matter what age, they are all stuck in the delusions of the past and the present, inclined to follow the toxic way of populism. As long as they have it good themselves, no-one of them cares about the others. They prefer the delusions provided to them by their propaganda masters in contrast to the truth of what these masters are doing to the country.

The PL and her cronies have already turned Malta into a hellish place and the look into the future rather let one anticipate that it is all set to get even worse. But no matter what, the PLers support all that, either actively by trolling media outlets and defending the indefensible, or tacitly by just shutting up themselves and blinding out everything that contravenes their own perceptions and positive view on their party. But alas, there are still plenty of people on a certain media outlet website who provide them with the audience they seek. It’s all big fun for both sides, all happy people running in circles day in day out, while the PL is transforming Malta back into an era, of which many of those who lived through it were glad with knowing that era being in the past.

The PL has fooled them all, but they don’t and they won’t get it. Still, the worst is that they are more than happy with that. Such is the way authoritarian regimes establish themselves and thrive, on the ignorance and complacency of a majority of people who should know better. But also on the lethargy of those who have given up to vote and abstain, so that what looks like a majority is in fact a minority because a certain part of the electorate refuses to take part in elections and cast their vote.

C. Fenech
1 month ago

Mr. Cassar, so you want to let everyone breaking the Law without the Police doing their job, grow up Mr. Cassar, you should know better.

1 month ago
Reply to  C. Fenech

Are you for real? Jean Paul Sofia’s friend did not break any law. Indeed, it is this government which routinely disregards and disrespects the law. And it has a police force which does its bidding. We’re calling it ‘bratva’.

1 month ago
Reply to  C. Fenech

I think that you have been addressing the wrong person here.

Your comment bears the question of whether the Malta Police is run by the State or instrumentalised by the ruling party. There have been plenty articles about the Police and how they perform in doing their job. Not quite much positive to read and I refer by that to what former Police service staff has told the media from their own daily life while working there. Others have alreay lost trust in the Police like in the other insitutions of the Maltese State as well.

To grow up is rather suited to be told to those who are still wearing their partisan blinkers and whatch the high rank PLers driving Malta into more misery.

The articles written by Mr Cassar are in my opinion of high quality standards in journalism. That is in my view the main reason for why the PLers don’t like what he writes.

Gordon Cook
Gordon Cook
1 month ago
Reply to  C. Fenech

Did you read the article?
Where did he say that?
There are clearly some favoured friends who seem to break the law with no action taken however.

1 month ago

I would actually wonder if it was his own daughter getting killed, what kind of swift action and prompt justice would have happened. Unless, of course, he had nothing to hide in the first place.

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