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MaltaToday 18 January 2023 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 18 JANUARY 2023 2 CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Grech, who says he is a for- mer homosexual "converted" through his Christian faith to renounce his sexual orientation, said on a Facebook video that he had been charged along with the producers of PM News. 'Public Media News' is run by Mario Camilleri and Rita Bonn- ici, and has in the past featured commentary against Malta's COVID rules, while featuring extensively vaccine-sceptics like Rudolf Ragonesi. Grech said he will be arraigned in court on 3 February on charg- es of breaching the ban on adver- tisement of gay conversion ther- apies, a law introduced in 2016. But the timing of the charges ap- pears to coincide with a recent announcement last week by par- liamentary secretary for reforms Rebecca Buttigieg to amend the law due to various loopholes. "This is political revenge," Grech said on Facebook, claim- ing the charges come weeks after police charged satirist Matt Bon- nano in court over a complaint by River of Love pastor Gordon John Manché. "I was asked to appear on a PM News Malta programme where I recalled my experience as a Christian on how I came out of homosexuality," he told MaltaToday. Grech also accused parliamen- tary secretary Rebecca Buttiegieg of being an 'accomplice' of Matt Bonanno over his lampoon- ing of River Of Love. Bonanno is facing charges of breachign the Electronic Misuse Act, risk- ing up to €50,000 in fines over a Facebook comment in which he said River of Love should be carpet-bombed. The charges fol- low a criminal complaint filed by Manché the previous year. While conversion therapy ad- vertisement is illegal in Malta, introduced in the 2016 Affir- mation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Ex- pression Bill, gay rights activists say the ambiguous definition of advertising had led to a loophole in the conversion therapy bill al- lowing it to be violated. Former Malta Gay Rights Movement coordinator Ga- bi Calleja recently alluded on TVM's Xtra that TV and so- cial media programmes had breached the ban over the past six years because of the absence on the definition of "advertise- ment" in the law. In his livestream announcing the charges, Grech accused the government of failing to "include God's word" in the law. "Who do you think you are, questioning God's army? You're going up against God himself," he said. PM News Malta deleted the programme from its platforms but refused to take any questions on the case when asked by Mal- taToday. As a member of the River of Love congregation, Grech has previously called on his Face- book followers not to vote for Labour in 2019, saying this was "a vote... that grieves our Lord Jesus Christ." Grech had crossed swords with equality minister Helena Dalli in 2018 over his remarks on X Fac- tor Malta about homosexuality. Grech had described homosex- uality as a sin in comments aired before he went in for his X Fac- tor audition. The judges put him through to the next round of the singing competition, but his comments raised a social media backlash as critics voiced their displeasure and disgust with Grech's anti-gay remarks. River of Love's leader Gor- don-John Manché has always denied carrying out gay con- version, after a protest led by MGRM outside the congrega- tion's headquarters had raised awareness about the harmful therapy. 'Ex-gay' Matthew Grech to be charged for breaching conversion therapy ban River of Love adherent and promoter of "ex-gay" culture Matthew Grech claims political revenge over charges of breaching gay conversion ad ban MATTHEW VELLA THE European Court of Human Rights has ordered Malta not to forcibly deport two Chinese nationals of Uyghur ethnic- ity, who are being detained at Safi Bar- racks. The two Chinese nationals filed their application to the ECHR on 13 January, with lawyers from Aditus and Spanish NGO Safeguard Defenders, after being slated for removal to China. "This order from the European Court of Human Rights is yet another con- demnation of Malta's asylum proce- dure. It keeps on failing those who need in most: persons fleeing persecution and atrocious human rights violations," Aditus said in a reaction to the last-min- ute interruptation of the deportation. The applicants are married Chinese nationals of Uyghur ethnicity and Mus- lim faith, who came to Malta in 2016. Their asylum request was turned down in 2017 but the the couple spent years living in hiding in Malta, before being issued their removal order on 1 August, 2022. Their claim that returning them to China would breach the international principle of non-refoulement was re- jected on 12 January, 2023 before filing an emergency claim to the European Court. They were detained at Safi Bar- racks, where their mobile phones were confiscated, rendering them unable to call their lawyers had the removal been carried through. They told the ECHR that if deported, they would face a real risk of being sub- jected to serious violations of their hu- man rights on account of their ethnicity and religion. "Our clients also informed the Court that Malta did not provide them with an effective remedy whereby they could raise their human rights complaints, as required by European human rights law," Aditus said in a statement. "In a mere four pages, the Maltese board blatantly ignored the extensive docu- mentation produced by the applicants in stating that 'appellants failed to pro- duce further evidence to substantiate the principle of non-refoulement'." That documentation included clear- cut evidence of transnational persecu- tion of the couple by Chinese author- ities, through reprisals against their family members in Xinjiang since 2017, as well as the growing series of reports and decisions by competent national and international authorities, including the hard-fought report by the United Nations Office of the High Commis- sioner for Human Rights of August 2022 that states: "In light of the overall assessment of the human rights situa- tion in XUAR," or Xinjiang, "countries hosting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities from XUAR should refrain from forcibly returning them, in any circumstance of real risks of breach of the principle of non-refoulement." Aditus said that the fear and uncer- tainty the couple were put through was highly emblematic of the continuous strain felt by those at risk of the Repub- lic of China's gross human rights abuse, and the EU's long-arm policing efforts with member states left to be negligent in upholding international obligations. "It is high time that Malta reviews its approach to asylum to ensure that it fulfils its core mission of protecting refugees. In the meantime, aditus foun- dation will continue our hard work to ensure that asylum-seekers are able to effectively present their claims and that refugees enjoy the protection they are entitled to," Aditus said. Malta stopped from deporting Uyghur nationals in last-minute deportation stop

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