Current Affairs
Urgent Appeal hearing of prisoner suffering kidney problems

An emergency Appeal Court hearing of the case of 36-year-old Christopher Bartolo, a prisoner from Fontana, Gozo, is being held following his claims that he is a kidney patient and that his medical condition is deteriorating in prison. Last April, Bartolo received a five-year prison sentence and was fined €15,000 after he admitted to trafficking 1.5 kilos of cannabis resin. He appealed the sentence but is being detained in prison.

When he appeared in Court for the Appeal being heard by the Supreme Court and Chief Judge Silvio Camilleri, he was accompanied by his relatives and the person who had donated a kidney to him.

The prison’s Warders’ Manager Saviour Lia testified that Bartolo entered the prison on 27th April and following a Court recommendation the prison authorities were attending to his medical and psychological needs. Presenting Bartolo’s medical documents in Court, Lia said that three times a week Bartolo was being escorted to hospital to receive dialyses treatment. He said that during a visit in June the medical staff informed that Bartolo’s health was deteriorating and he was confined to hospital between 19th June and 4th July. Asked by the Court whether Bartolo’s medicines are being checked, Lia said he had no information on the medicine that Bartolo was taking previously. He also said that later Bartolo was further detained in hospital for a day but this was not related to his kidney problems.

Lia explained that Bartolo had requested to undergo rehabilitation because of his drug-addiction problem and his request was being processes. However, when Bartolo was informed that while following the Caritas Programme he could not receive visits from his relatives, he had changed his mind. Asked whether it is true Bartolo could not follow the Caritas programme because they did not have the necessary medical conditions for his problem, Lia said the question had not arisen as Bartolo had had a change of mind. The Chief Judge told Bartolo that if he really wanted to be cured of his addiction he would have to make sacrifices and unless he did so, the Court could not believe he wanted to reform his life.

Lia informed the Court that besides being accompanied by warders to hospital, prison officials were also following medical advice as to how to address Bartolo’s needs. This includes his dietary needs that he should avoid eating certain foods. Bartolo’s Defence Counsel led by lawyer Franco Debono said that Bartolo’s diet had only been changed recently. Asked by Judge Zammit McKeon whether the hospital’s baking facility offered wholemeal bread that the prisoner should consume, Lia said he would have to check this out with the authorities concerned.

Bartolo’s defence said there were two occasions when the prisoner had been given his medicine late because there had been a delivery delay from the Government Dispensary.

The hearing of the case is to continue on Friday when medical specialists will be testifying. The Court said the case should be concluded by the end of next week.

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