MEPs Ana Gomes and David Casa have rejected a request for a meeting by two men accused of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Alfred and George Degiorgio on Thursday morning sought court authorisation to hold a meeting with the MEPs, saying such a meeting should be open to the press.
But the MEPs swiftly replied in a statement that ‘politicians have no place negotiating with suspected murderers.’
This unexpected request was voiced by lawyer William Cuschieri at the start of the compilation of evidence against the Degiorgio brothers and co-accused Vincent Muscat.
The request took the prosecution and parte civile lawyers unawares. They said that this was an extraordinary request which fell beyond the scope of the judicial process.
Assistant Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia said he was “bewildered” by this request, stating that this case was subject to a judicial process and politicians, the media and other third parties, with all due respect, were to be left out of it.
The basic principle was the judicial proceedings took place before the courts and no-one else, Dr Galea Farrugia stressed.
“The request is extraordinary and should be discussed behind closed doors,” intervened Dr Jason Azzopardi, appearing parte civile. “Why couldn’t they meet the inquiring magistrate, for instance?” he continued,
“I’m afraid that after that meeting, once news had been divulged by press, whose duty it is to do so, the defence might then institute proceedings claiming that certain rights had been breached” continued Dr Azzopardi, implying that there was more to the request than what appeared at face value.
Normally, Degiorgios’ defence team complained of media reports in respect of the accused, Dr Galea Farrugia added.
However, Dr William Cuschieri explained that, although not yet fully aware of what his clients actually wished to discuss with the MEPs, (having only been informed of their request this morning) he had sought court authorisation since the Degiorgios were under custody.
Moreover, “others had gone abroad before this, under the pretext that they did not trust local institutions, handing over laptops to foreign authorities,” Dr Cuschieri remarked.
“How could I be a party to a possible breach of rights?” Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit said.
After briefly consulting his clients, Dr Cuschieri informed the court that the Degiorgios “did not wish to add or detract anything from their request as originally framed.”
In the light of this unexpected twist, the Court granted the prosecution and parte civile lawyers to file their written replies to the Degiorgios request by Monday. The court would then decree on the matter accordingly.
Casa, Gomes reply
In a reaction, David Casa and Ana Gomes said politicians have no place negotiating with suspected murderers being held in custody.
“If the accused want to make a confession, they should do so to the magistrate and if they want to make a public statement claiming innocence they can do so in court or by releasing a statement via their lawyer,” they said in a statement.
“The only role that parliamentarians can play in a criminal case is to hold authorities to account. They cannot do the job of a magistrate, the police or the prosecutor. They can only see to it that those people are doing their jobs properly” they added.
Contravention photos disappear
In the course of Thursday’s sitting, prosecuting Inspector Keith Arnaud presented a list of reports recorded on the police system where reference was made to the assassinated journalist.
A search via the ID card number of the victim, dating back to 2006, had returned five reports in all, of which only three were printed and presented on Thursday in the records of the compilation. The fourth involved a traffic accident, while the fifth concerned the murder itself.
Dr Cuschieri asked Inspector Arnaud whether police had taken steps over a report in 2008 claiming that two individuals intended to plant a bomb outside the Caruana Galizia home.
An anonymous caller had informed the control room that two persons, identified in the call, were planning to plant a bomb. The police had in fact spoken to the two persons identified by the caller, but nothing had come of it.
A LESA enforcement officer, on the central region, took the witness stand presenting copies of two contraventions related to the car which had been leased by Alfred Degiorgio.
A search on the authority’s system had returned two contraventions, issued by a warden, one having a photo of the car attached. The second ticket conceded parking on double yellow lines in Triq it-Tonn, St Paul’s Bay in August 2017.
The warden had noted that there were two photos attached to this contravention but the witness explained that “for some reason, these photos were never found on the system, nor were they ever archived. Nothing was found.”
“Were the tickets handed to the driver or left on windscreen?” asked Dr Cuschieri.
“Most probably, left on windscreen,” the LESA witness replied, leading the lawyer to remark that therefore the identity of the person in control of the car could not be determined 100%.
The compilation continues in July.
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