Three Men to Stand Trial for Murder of Malta’s Most Prominent Journalist
Nicola Driscoll-Davies on new developments in the investigation of the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Three men have been formally charged and will stand trial for the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
George Degiorgio, 55, Alfred Degiorgio, 53, and Vincent Muscat, 55, all unemployed and in receipt of benefits, have been accused of planting and detonating the bomb placed under the driver’s seat of the car which killed Caruana Galizia on 16 October 2017.
FBI agents confirmed in May 2018 that following Muscat’s phone call, Degiorgio sent a text message which then detonated the bomb.
The men have been detained since their arrests took place in Malta on 4 December 2017.
Each has pleaded not guilty.
The nature of the justice system in Malta means that the prosecution now has a 20-month time limit to set a date for the trial which, according to legal experts, could take many months or even years.
Brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio and their friend Vincent Muscat are alleged to have built, planted and detonated the bomb which killed the investigative journalist – but are not believed to be the persons who ordered the assassination.
Malta’s Foreign Affairs Minister, said the Maltese Government would abide by the three-month limit imposed by the Council of Europe for an independent public inquiry .
Vincent Muscat has been charged with allegedly watching the journalist closely in the weeks before her murder. On the day she was killed, he made a phone call to George Degiorgio’s phone out at sea – at the exact time Daphne Caruana Galizia left her home.
FBI agents confirmed in May 2018 that, following Muscat’s phone call, Degiorgio sent a text message which then detonated the bomb.
Malta’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Carmelo Abela, told an audience at the UK global media freedom conference in London last week that the Maltese Government would abide by the three-month limit imposed by the Council of Europe for an independent public inquiry into the assassination to take place.
Sarah Clarke, of Article 19 – a British organisation which defends freedom of expression and information – used the conference to draw attention to the decades of violence and harassment that Daphne Caruana Galizia experienced leading up to her death.
Malta needs to account for our mother’s murder and for the decades of harassment, abuse and violence she facedPaul and Matthew Galizia. Daphne’s sons.
Clarke warned the Maltese minister of the ongoing intimidation and harassment of the late journalist’s family, including the ongoing libel threats and libel cases they have inherited which need urgent attention. She urged the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to protect activists and journalists within Malta, warning the international community will be watching the country closely.
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She said: “We are hearing again and again from the Maltese Government that this public inquiry cannot be immediately established – that is not correct. We know that the public inquiry can and must be established immediately if we are to get justice in this case.
“We would urge the Maltese Government to cease the daily destruction of the memorial for Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta calling for justice, to immediately establish a public inquiry and to work to protect civil society and journalists, including Caroline Muscat, of The Shift News.”
Public Inquiry Countdown
The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation has launched a new website, counting down each day of the three-month limit imposed by the council.
Corinne Vella, the sister of the late journalist, told Byline Times that there was no “rational reason” for the delay as required under European laws and that the countdown is a reminder to the Maltese Government that time is running out.
Caruana Galizia’s sons, Paul and Matthew Caruana Galizia, told Byline Times: “Malta needs to account for our mother’s murder and for the decades of harassment, abuse and violence she faced. All we are asking for is for our country to comply with existing laws and the deadline set in the Council of Europe resolution.”
It is an indictment of the rule of law in Malta that no investigation has ever been established into whether the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia could have been prevented.
Peter Omtzigt, a special rapporteur who has looked into the murder, denied that a public inquiry would “impinge upon the ongoing criminal investigations against the suspected killers in detention and the organiser and instigators of the crime who are still at large”.
Instead, Omtzigt said the inquiry should concentrate on how this assassination could have been prevented and “how similar murders can be avoided in the future”.
“What needs to be done to ensure that cases of high-level corruption such as those disclosed by Daphne Caruana Galizia are properly investigated – without journalists having to risk their lives.”
The family’s solicitor, Tony Murphy of Bhatt Murphy, in London agreed that “it is an indictment of the rule of law in Malta that no investigation has ever been established into whether the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia could have been prevented. Unless and until this central question is independently investigated, other lives remain at risk and the Caruana Galizia family remain without justice. The Prime Minister has nothing to fear from a public inquiry but the truth”.
Family’s Freedom of Expression over Banner Protest
A civil court in Malta ruled this week that the removal of banners calling for justice for the journalist and her investigations, erected in March and April last year, breached the Caruana Galizia family’s fundamental right of freedom of expression under Maltese law and the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Caruana Galizia family said that their banners were “a cry against the climate of impunity in Malta that ultimately enabled Daphne’s assassination. We hope this important judgment inspires people to demand that the Government respects the law. We hope, too, that the Government will use its power to ensure – and not inhibit – justice for Daphne”.
Photos of the banners are courtesy of the Caruana Galizia family.