The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation has called the justice ministry’s inquiry into the crossing over of young lawyer Charles Mercieca from the Office of the Attorney General to Yorgen Fenech’s defence team “opaque and unhelpful”.
On Tuesday, the ministry announced that Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Azzopardi will head an independent inquiry board which will look into the controversial move by Mercieca.
Fenech is in court after being charged with masterminding the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
“The former judge tasked with the inquiry is widely respected, but the central issue is outside the inquiry’s scope,” the Foundation said in a statement on Wednesday.
It explained that the inquiry launched by the government can only examine whether the Attorney General’s office followed the rules applicable to publicly-funded employers, and cannot establish the origin and extent of the relationship between Mercieca and Fenech, or members of his defence team.
It also cannot eliminate the possibility that Mercieca may have had unauthorised access to information relating to the prosecution of Fenech and any future prosecutions of his co-conspirators, the Foundation said.
The terms of the inquiry have not yet been made public. However, it is known that the Board will have to present its finding to the justice minister by 16 June.
I welcome the Maltese authorities' action, subject to immediate publication of this inquiry's terms of reference and clarification of how it will complement the justice commission's disciplinary proceedingshttps://t.co/Do1XrXzZYS
— Pieter Omtzigt (@PieterOmtzigt) May 12, 2020
Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt on Wednesday welcomed the inquiry by the authorities “subject to immediate publication of this inquiry’s terms of reference and clarification of how it will complement the justice commission’s disciplinary proceedings”. Mercieca’s transition was previously harshly criticised by Omtzigt who had called for the immediate investigation by the Maltese authorities before irreversible harm could be done.
“Full justice means ending the corrupt practices Daphne Caruana Galizia investigated,” the Foundation concluded in its statement.
In the past days, it has also referred Mercieca to the Commission for the Administration of Justice, – a body with the power to revoke his warrant. The Foundation also wrote to the Attorney General asking for standard non-compete clauses in its employment contracts.
The ministry had previously called Mercieca’s move “insensitive”, a reaction that was criticised as “weak'” by Opposition MP David Thake.
Mercieca has argued that he did not have any involvement in Fenech’s case while he was working as a state prosecutor.