Jury in Marsden trial to start deliberations today
Jurors in the trial of Englishman Steven Marsden, found with more than 14 kilos of pills hidden between panels of his Mitsubishi Pajero in 2006, are expected to deliberate on his plea today.
Marsden is being charged with conspiring to deal in ecstasy but he is appealing the charge, arguing that the drugs he imported were not illegal at the time.
The Court of Criminal Appeal has decided to leave the decision up to a jury.
The find had been hailed by the Maltese police as the largest ever ecstasy haul but only two months later, laboratory studies showed the pills were a legal ecstasy substitute.
Originally, Marsden was charged with importing 28 packets of 50,000 ecstasy pills and trafficking in the drug.
But the charges were dropped when evidence produced during the compilation of evidence showed that the pills did not contain the substance MDMA, but MCPP, which, at the time was not prohibited by Maltese laws.
Marsden is now being tried on charges of conspiracy. A person may be found guilty of conspiracy to import illegal substances into Malta, even though what is eventually imported does not turn out to be illegal. It depends on what was actually agreed upon between the conspirators and more specifically on the object of the conspiracy.
The case was first brought to the attention of the Maltese media on 22 June, when MaltaToday reported that Fair Trials International â€“ a charity defending the rights of those facing charges in a country other than their own â€“ denounced the Maltese authorities for pursuing this case despite Steven Marsden having committed no offence under Maltese law.
Lawyer Joe Brincat who was also interviewed by BBC described the case a travesty of justice and announced that he will present a case in the European Court of human rights. â€śI have been practising in the criminal courts for the last 38 years and Mr Marsdenâ€™s case is a parody of justice,â€ť Brincat said.
According to Fair Trails International the Maltese authorities â€śare desperate to secure a conviction for something at any cost,â€ť FTI claimed.
FTI claims the pills did not contain MDMA, the chemical found in ecstasy. â€śThe pills are in fact called mCPP and sold as an ecstasy substitute of sorts, but contain nothing unlawful under Maltese lawâ€ť.
MCCP was not illegal in Malta when Marsden was apprehended but the chemical was outlawed in May 2007 through a legal notice. Metachlorophenylpiperazine (mCPP) is a psychoactive substance that appeared in 2004 on the black market of illicit substances in France and other European countries.