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Judge Antonio Mizzi can hear Panama Papers appeal, Simon Busuttil to take case to Strasbourg

Former Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights

Court
Photo: Frank Vincentz

The constitutional court upheld arguments made by former Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil that the safeguards of a right to a fair trial are applicable to the criminal inquiry he requested but pointed out that these cannot invoked by Busuttil himself since he was not a victim.

Three judges today ruled in an appeal filed by the Attorney General over another judgment that found that Judge Antonio Mizzi’s refusal to recuse himself from a complaint on Panama Papers breached former Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil’s right to a fair hearing.

Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi, Judge Noel Cuschieri and Judge Giannino Caruana Demajo said the safeguards cannot be invoked by Busuttil himself as he is not a victim in these proceedings.

The safeguards could be invoked by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, their auditors Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, Malcolm Scerri, and the former Managing Director of Allied Newspapers Adrian Hillman as these are suspected persons in the inquiry. These had each filed separate appeals against a magisterial decision to green light an inquiry in their regard. These were assigned to Judge Mizzi. Busuttil had filed a complaint once these had done so.

The appeal filed by the Attorney General contested a judgment by Judge Joseph Zammit Mckeon who had ruled that Judge Antonio Mizzi’s refusal to recuse himself from a complaint on Panama Papers breached Busuttil’s right to a fair hearing due his wife being an MEP, creating a conflict of interest.

In the original judgment, the court said that the decision taken by Judge Mizzi on the complaint, which had been filed by Busuttil, had to be revoked. The conflict of interest arose because his wife, MEP Marlene Mizzi, had spoken about the Panama Papers in the European Parliament, “as was her legitimate right”.

Mizzi had hit out against Busuttil on Facebook, even calling him “LOO”, an acronym for Leader of the Opposition but also slang word for toilet.

Following the judgment, Busuttil’s lawyer Jason Azzopardi said they would be taking up the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

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