The court registrar on Wednesday filed a case charging university lecturer Simon Mercieca with contempt of court after he posted recordings online that were heard behind closed doors in court during the compilation of evidence against murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.
The recordings are part of ongoing investigations by the police in their case against Fenech who is accused of commissioning the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. In a hearing on 30 January, Magistrate Rachel Montebello, who is presiding over the case, ordered the recordings not to be made public.
Select parts of the recordings were uploaded by an anonymous account on Reddit. Mercieca, Senior Lecturer of History at the University of Malta, republished the recordings on his social media profile despite the court order.
Mercieca has been campaigning in Fenech’s defence, saying accusations against him are part of a conspiracy by the media, driven by the journalist’s family.
Following complaints filed by the prosecution and lawyers of the Caruana Galizia family, Magistrate Montebello ruled that Mercieca was in contempt of court. The court director and registrar’s office has filed a request for proceedings against Mercieca to commence.
The magistrate had said the leaks constituted a criminal offence. She also pointed out that the court had issued orders that this should not happen and stressed that the recordings had been heard behind closed doors. Montebello stressed that the Court had repeatedly said the recordings must not be published or given to third parties due to concerns of obstruction of justice.
Should Mercieca be found guilty, the court may impose a fine of between €230 and €2,300, or up to one month imprisonment.
Investigations are ongoing into how excerpts of conversations that form part of the evidence against Fenech were leaked. The recordings feature five 30-second clips of exchanges between suspected mastermind Yorgen Fenech and self-confessed middleman Melvin Theuma.
The clips were selectively cut to present specific soundbites and not the recordings or conversations in full, leading to questions of who stood to benefit.
In parts of the recordings, Theuma is heard saying that then-Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar “wants money”. Cutajar has denied this under oath.
The case against Mercieca will be heard in November before Magistrate Marseanna Farrugia. Lawyer Noel Bartolo filed the case in name of the court.