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01.02.2018

ECPMF monitors Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case in Malta - court receives new evidence

By Emil Weber

The Valletta Magistrates Court heard fresh evidence on 1 February 2018 against three men suspected of the murder of Ms. Daphne Caruana Galizia. Neighbours and other witnesses provided further details on the circumstances of the murder. The late journalist’s husband, sister and parents were also present in the audience.

 

Malta's Magistrates Court where the trial takes place Malta's Magistrates Court where the trial takes place (photo: Flutura Kusari)

Ms. Caruana Galizia was an investigative journalist and author, well-known in Malta for her critical writing on corruption involving highest ranking public officials. Her latest reporting involved allegations about officials close to the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his wife, mentioned in the Panama Papers.

Ms. Caruana Galizia was assassinated close to her family home in Bidnja on 16 October 2017. Her rented car was destroyed when a bomb placed under the driver’s seat exploded. A short time later one of her sons found her body..

Mr. Vince Muscat, Mr. George Degiorgio and his brother Mr. Alfred Degiorgio were arrested on 4 December 2017 and pleaded not guilty next day. It is alleged that they triggered the bomb explosion from a boat out at sea.

Mr. Jason Azzopardi, a pro bono lawyer representing the Caruana Galizia family and an opposition member of the Parliament and Shadow Minister for Justice, told The European Centre for Media and Press Freedom (ECPMF) on Thursday that the three persons who have been charged are not those “who commissioned the murder”.

“Hopefully the case will show who commissioned the murder. I definitely believe that these are not the only persons involved in the killing”, Mr. Azzopardi said. “The way she [Ms. Caruna Galizia] was killed sent a message to all journalists. It will have chilling effect on the media and journalism”.

Magistrate Stafrace Zammit had earlier concluded that there was prima facie reasonable suspicion to charge the three suspects. After this decision, a new stage of criminal procedure started which allowed the prosecutor and the police to continue collecting evidence.

The defence lawyers of the three suspects also have the right to present evidence. The presentation of evidence might take several months. In the end, the magistrate will decide if the evidence is sufficient to allow for the criminal indictment of the three suspects.

In recent weeks, two other magistrates were recused or removed from the case because they had been mentioned in Ms. Caruana Galizia’s writings or were close to her in some way. The husband of the current magistrate, Stafrace Zammit, was also mentioned in the stories, but she has refused to resign by arguing that Ms. Caruana Galizia had simply reported facts and “neither praised nor criticised”. 

A parallel court case is ongoing, brought by the Caruana Galizia family to have the Deputy Police Commissioner removed from the case because they say there is a conflict of interests.





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