Pubdate: Wed, 15 Jul 2009
Source: MaltaToday (Malta)
Copyright: 2009sMediaToday Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 02, Malta
Author: Matthew Vella, Staff Writer


The Court of Criminal Appeal revoked a judgement by the  Court of
Magistrates which found a man guilty of  importing the drug khat,
which had not been illegal at  the time of alleged offence.

Khalif Id Ahmed was found guilty on 8 May, 2009, and  sentenced to a
six-month jail term and a,466 fine for  importing the drugs cathine
and cathinone, in the form  of khat, which are leaves that can be
chewed for their  euphoric effect.

Khat is a plant native to East Africa and the Arabian  peninsula, and
is said to cause excitement, loss of  appetite and euphoria. It is a
controlled/illegal  substance in many countries.

While cathine and cathinone are illegal substances in  themselves,
khat leaves were not illegal to import at  the time of the offence,
which took place in 2006.

Ahmed was stopped at Malta International Airport on the  night between
the 21 and 22 July, 2006 upon his arrival  by air from Amsterdam. He
was carrying a quantity of  khat plants. In his statement to the
Police he admitted  that he had brought the plants into Malta to put
it in  his fridge and take it for himself and part of it was  to give
as a present to his Somali friends living in  the Marsa Open Centre.

He stated that only Somalis eat Khat and that he had  been given the
Khat by his relative Nur Mohammed in  Holland and he did not know that
it was prohibited in  Malta. Had he known that it was illegal, Ahmed
had told  police, he would not have have brought it to Malta but  left
it in Holland.

But Judge Joe Galea Debono asked whether the  authorities might want
to consider whether an amendment  to Malta's drug laws is warranted at
to prohibit the  use of this practice by Somali immigrants into this 
country who share similar customs and habits.

He referred his court judgement to the ministers of  social policy and
home affairs.

The case was similar to the Khayre case, who spent two  years in
custody over the importation of khat, when it  was not even illegal.

He was finally liberated on appeal on appeal by Chief  Justice Vincent
De Gaetano.

In the Khayre case, De Gaetano found that there was no  evidence to
suggest that appellant Aweys Maani Khayre's  mind was in any way
specifically directed to the drug  cathinone or to the drug cathine.
The Court was  satisfied that, in line with the social and cultural 
habits of his country of origin, he simply intended to  provide his
friends in Malta with a plant to chew, even  if that plant would have,
as he must certainly have  known that it would have, a stimulating
effect on  whoever consumed it.

For these reasons the Court had allowed the appeal,  revoked the
judgment of the Court of Magistrates and  acquitted Khayre of all the
charges preferred against  him.

Likewise, Galea Debono said there was no evidence to  suggest that
Khalif Id Ahmed intended to import into  Malta the drugs cathine and
cathinone as such, but  that, in line with the social customs of his
country of  origin, he intended to provide himself and his 
co-nationals in Malta with a plant to chew. 
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