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Fr David Muscat found guilty of hate speech on appeal

Priest’s lawyers do not rule out opening constitutional case

Fr David Muscat has been found guilty of hate speech after he argued that being gay is worse than being possessed by the devil. The priest was handed a suspended sentence on appeal after he had been acquitted by the court of first instance.

The 51-year-old cleric had been arraigned in January 2022 following two posts he had made on Facebook, in the wake of the murder of Polish student Paulina Dembska.

Speaking of the possibility that murder suspect Abner Aquilina might be gay or possessed by the devil, he insisted that “gayness” was the worst of the two scenarios. The priest also commented on a photograph showing Aquilina wearing a colourful shirt, remarking that he looked as though he was returning from “gay pride.” Aquilina stands accused of the rape and murder of Dembska.

The incendiary comments raised uproar and drew the condemnation of the Archbishop, who issued Fr Muscat with a formal warning – a penal precept, in line with Canon Law – that he would be prohibited from exercising his ministry if he continued making inflammatory and hurtful comments. Archbishop Scicluna also reminded the priest that members of the clergy are required to show respect, compassion and sensitivity to all in accordance with Catholic teaching.

On Wednesday, Madam Justice Edwina Grima upheld the appeal filed by the Attorney General and overturned the original acquittal. The court of magistrates had concluded that the priest was merely “expressing an opinion”, and dismissed the case.

However, on appeal, Fr Muscat was handed a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

Lawyer Dr Etienne Savona represented the Attorney General’s office.

Lawyers Dr Mariah Mula and Dr Chris Attard assisted Fr Muscat, with both telling that they are presently exploring all legal avenues, including the possibility of opening a constitutional case.

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