VALLETTA, Malta — Two Maltese soldiers have pleaded not guilty to charges they participated in a racially-motivated, fatal drive-by shooting of a migrant from Ivory Coast.
The two men, Lorin Scicluna and Francesco Fenech, were also charged Sunday with the April 6 attempted murder of two other men from Guinea and Gambia, who were seriously injured in the attack. The death of Ivorian Lassana Cisse is believed to be Malta’s first racially motivated slaying amid Europe’s current debate over migration.
The charges, which include racial hatred and committing a racially motivated crime, carry a maximum of life in prison.
Migration is a key political issue for the Mediterranean island nation, particularly ahead of European Parliament elections this week. Maltese political leaders and Catholic Church officials have been speaking out against growing hate speech against migrants, particularly on social media.