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Inquiry clears Malta's PM over migrant deaths

Malta's Prime Minister Robert Abela, seen here in February, has been cleared of homicide over the death of migrants at sea

An investigation has cleared Malta's Prime Minister Robert Abela of any blame over the death of migrants at sea, his government announced Saturday.

The results of the investigation, set out in a 420-page report, were summarised in English in the island's main daily newspapers, the original document having been written in Maltese, said the government's press service.

The investigation, which had sought to establish whether Abela, a senior army officer and the crew of an army patrol boat had been responsible for the deaths of at least five migrants, had cleared them of homicide, the Times of Malta wrote, citing the report.

In mid-April, Malta's Repubblika civil rights organisation filed two police reports alleging criminal inaction on the part of Abela and Maltese armed forces commander Jeffrey Curmi.

Its second report was filed against 11 crew members of a Maltese patrol boat who allegedly cut the cables of the migrant dinghy's motor.

Abela said at the time he denied the allegations against him but had volunteered to cooperate with the police investigation.

Malta has closed its ports to migrants, citing the threat of the novel coronavirus.

The magistrate who cleared Abela and the others nevertheless asked police to keep looking into the activities of the smuggler suspected of having tried to get the migrants across the Mediterranean.