“It is heartbreaking to see the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia in the courtroom facing suspected criminals,” the lawyer for the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) told The Shift News.
The hearing on the compilation of evidence (ongoing for close to 20 months) was held as the deadline for the Attorney General to file the indictment against the three accused – Vince Muscat, and brothers Alfred Degiorgio and George Degiorgio – is scheduled for the start of August. If not filed by then, the accused will be granted automatic bail.
“Considering all the criticism of the judicial system of Malta, we are very afraid that suspected criminals might get bail if an indictment is not filed soon,” Kusari said.
She was joined by Jantine van Herwijnen from Free Press Unlimited who reiterated the call by international press freedom organisations for the immediate launch of a public inquiry.
They pointed out that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had not answered their request for a meeting on the matter. They echoed the sentiments of other press freedom and human rights organisations saying, “we will continue to monitor Daphne Caruana Galizia’s case and support the family until justice is done”.
The representatives also visited the protest memorial opposite the law courts in Valletta, saying on social media: “We hope the authorities will not remove it again”.
Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi joined the defence team on Monday, replacing the legal aid lawyer assigned to the case. It led to questions on how the accused, who spent years claiming social benefits despite their lavish lifestyles, could suddenly afford an expensive defence team.
1/2. "Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi appears to have joined the defence team on behalf of Mr Muscat."
— Justin Borg-Barthet (@JustinBBarthet) July 15, 2019
The Degiorgio brothers are undergoing legal proceedings for money laundering. All three have claimed to be unemployed.
Azzopardi called in medical experts to sustain Muscat’s request for bail – to show he had eye problems after being shot in an incident unrelated to the Caruana Galizia case. Azzopardi argued that this disputed Muscat’s involvement in the journalist’s assassination.
Police officers testified that Muscat was involved in the HSBC bank heist. The case on the robbery also involved David Gatt as a suspect – a former police inspector turned lawyer after Economy Minister Chris Cardona endorsed his application for a legal warrant.
Gatt was released based on the discrediting of a witness who was involved in the planned robbery. The witness was sent to Mount Carmel hospital for the mentally ill, twice, when he stated that he knew what the authorities were hiding.
The request for bail for Muscat was denied by Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit after the Attorney General objected.
The next hearing is scheduled for 2 August, only a few days before the deadline for the Attorney General to file an indictment before the accused can be granted automatic bail.