Lana Estemirova, daughter of assassinated Chechen activist and journalist Natalia Estemirova, and Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, spoke about the parallels and differences between their struggles for justice in the aftermath of their mothers’ deaths in an episode of ‘trouble with the truth’, a podcast hosted by the Justice for Journalists Foundation.
Matthew Caruana Galizia, himself a journalist who has, since his mother’s assassination, been at the forefront of projects that followed up on her work while actively campaigning for justice, said the family “knew” their “lives would be hell” after the murder.
“I knew it would be like that the moment the murder happened, that it was going to be a very long fight. You could tell straight away, and I think that the intent was to send a message that says the people who did it are very powerful,” Caruana Galizia stated.
“Obviously, my instinct was not to run away but to react to it, and it was the same for the rest of the family. We wanted to resist this attempt to silence everyone,” he added.
When asked about what living in Malta was like after his mother was assassinated on 16 October 2017, Matthew said “there’s definitely a dark cloud” hanging over the family’s prospects ever since.
“It’s difficult to live here. Every time I leave the house, I have to drive past the same spot my mum was murdered. In court, I sit one metre away from people who are being prosecuted for the murder. My family is harassed in public, there’s constant intimidation – it’s difficult,” he said.
“At the same time, I live in the house that my mum and my dad restored, that’s filled with all of her things. Her garden, everything; it’s a beautiful place. It goes some way towards making up for everything else,” he added.
Lana Estemirova spoke of how she was just 15 years old when her mother was murdered, and that she had to flee to the UK from Chechnya, her family’s home country, when Natalia was murdered over a decade ago.
When asked to describe what the reaction to news of the murder of his mother was like for him, Matthew Caruana Galizia further spoke of how the family felt the need to dive straight into activism, with much of their work as individuals coming together with the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation as its guiding framework.
“I think it was very important to have my family in this. Without that kind of support system, you wouldn’t be able to get very far. It would be impossible to cope on your own; things would just eat away at you slowly,” Caruana Galizia said.
The Foundation’s core mission, according to Caruana Galizia, is “to obtain justice” for Daphne’s murder and her investigations. On a long term basis, the Foundation is on a mission to make the country “more democratic and less corrupt”.
“The fact we were all adults by the time it happened played a huge part in the process. I was working for an organisation that had hundreds of investigative journalists as members. My middle brother was working for the government; my youngest brother was working for a think tank in London,” he continued.
“We knew our way about the international realm by then, it would have been very different if we were teenagers when my mother was killed,” he added.
Estemirova is convinced that the Russian State, which should have directed scrutiny towards Chechen dictator and Kremlin ally Ramzan Kadyrov, should have exposed the link between her mother’s investigations into crimes against human rights committed by Chechnya. The investigation failed to factor in the extensive list of threats her mother was facing from Kadyrov’s government.
She expressed her disappointment over the European Court of Human Rights’ conclusion that the Russian State’s investigation into her mother’s murder in 2009 was bereft of the evidence needed to draw a conclusion about who was responsible for the murder, labelling the case in the human rights court as the last hope she had for any form of justice.
The two also spoke of the lengthiness of court proceedings and how in both murder investigations, any tangible convictions will likely end up taking years to secure, with Estemirova stating that she was absolutely sure “she would never see justice as long as Putin and Kadyrov are in power”.
You can follow the full podcast here.