Malta. BirdLife official declines police call for questioning [VIDEO]

BirdLife conservation manager Nicholas Barbara says summoning is attempt of police intimidation; Barbara’s questioning request ‘beggars belief’, says Gaia Foundation.

BirdLife Malta conservation manager Nicholas Barbara.

On Saturday, BBC presenter Chris Packham spent five hours in police custody after FKNK lawyers called in police to investigate alleged privacy breach.
Daniel Mizzi writing yesterday in Malta Today said  BirdLife conservation manager Nicholas Barbara has declined a police request for questioning, insisting that he did not do anything illegal and that the head of the police’s Administrative Law Enforcement section did not give any concrete reasons for his summoning.  “This morning I have asked the reason for my summoning, but these were not provided. The police only told me that it was obvious why I have been called in.” “Consequently, it has been decided that our time would be better spent outside in the countryside,” Barbara said.

Barbara’s summoning is the latest in a series of similar occurrences and less than 24 hours after  BBC Springwatch presenter and naturalist Chris Packham spent five hours in police custody. Even though Packham was not given any reasons for his summoning, he voluntarily cooperated with the police, and went in for questioning.

It later transpired that he was called in by police because lawyers from the hunters’ federation FKNK requested that the police investigate an alleged privacy breach, and defamation. Packham was not accused of anything, but said that at one point, he was threatened with arrest unless he releases a statement to the police.

Similarly to Packham, Barbara was not given any reason why he was requested for police questioning – a case of “police intimidation”, according to the BirdLife official.

“After BirdLife officials spent hours in police custody without being arrested and without being given any concrete reasons, we feel that this is a case of police intimidation,” Barbara said.

“This is the fourth time that our members have been asked to present themselves to the police. In the second day of the spring hunting season, two of my colleague were summoned to the police station for about four hours,” the BirdLife conservation manager said.

Earlier this week, BirdLife’s communications officer Rupert Masefield was arrested by police after filming ALE officers. The Police Commissioner had said that Masefield was investigated because it is illegal to be in possession of a protected bird, arguing that the environmental organisation kept birds due to gunshot wounds.

Masefield was released after two hours in police custody, and no charges were brought against him.

Barbara’s summoning ‘beggars belief’ – Gaia Foundation

In the wake of Nicholas Barbara being called in for police questioning, environmental NGO Gaia Foundation has expressed “serious disappointment” that the promises of stepping up enforcement of wildlife regulations, the authorities seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time and resources in investigating the conservationists themselves instead.

“The last episode involving another Birdlife official and ornithologist being asked on a Sunday morning to go to the police GHQ for questioning beggars belief,” it said.

The NGO said that it sincerely hopes that no person in enforcement is interpreting the handling by a vet or conservationist of an injured bird as constituting an offence in terms of the very legislation set up to protect such birds in the first place.

“This,” it said, “would not only be ludicrous, but it would show an ignorance of a fundamental principle of law that necessity can justify an act that would otherwise be deemed illegal.”

Following Packham’s summoning yesterday, Gaia has insisted that Packham’s five-hour questioning contrasts with the treatment of hunters.

“The hunter who a few days ago had his gun confiscated and was charged, was not arrested or even interrogated by the police for five hours… We fail to understand why a journalist needed to be interrogated for such a long time.”

The Gaia Foundation has since called upon the Police Commissioner to explain the policy that the Police Department is taking with regard to environmental NGO representatives taking the necessary action to come to the aid of an injured bird.

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