Pardoned murder middleman Melvin Theuma’s testimony in the compilation of evidence against the three men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia had to be postponed after legal wrangling over his recordings.
Lawyer William Cuschieri, appearing for George Degiorgio, 55, known as Iċ-Ċiniż, Alfred Degiorgio, 53, known as il-Fulu, insisted today that all recordings are played in court before he could cross-examine Theuma.
The Degiorgios and Vincent Muscat, 55, known as il-Koħħu stand charged of procuring, planting and detonating the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia on 16 October 2017.
Theuma was cleared to continue testifying by psychiatrists after having attempted suicide last summer. In last week’s sitting, three psychiatrists appointed by the court to report on Theuma’s state, said he could continue his testimony.
However, Theuma, who was in court today, did not take the witness stand as the defence lawyer insisted that he could not cross-examine him before all recordings are heard in court as happened in the case against Yorgen Fenech. Fenech is undergoing separate proceedings and stands charged of masterminding the murder.
The magistrate said she had to hear from Muscat’s defence lawyer, Marc Sant, on the matter. Sant was indisposed today.
At the end of the last sitting, George Degiorgio broke his long-held silence when he went into a tirade of abuse towards Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit, the Attorney General and lawyer Jason Azzopardi, accusing them of breaching his human rights.
The compilation of evidence is being heard by Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit.
Lawyer Marc Sant is appearing for Vince Muscat. Lawyer William Cuschieri is appearing for the Degiorgio brothers.
Superintendent Keith Arnaud and Inspector Kurt Zahra are prosecuting, aided by Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia.
Follow the live commentary of proceedings below:
14:33 That’s it for today. Thank you for following.
14:33 The sitting is adjourned to 3 February at 9am.
14:31 Inspector Kurt Zahra points out that Melvin Theuma had been summoned to testify today and had attended the sitting.
14:31 The court adjourns to hear lawyer Marc Sant’s input on the matter. He is to inform the court or the prosecution in advance to say whether Theuma is to testify or not.
14:30 Defence lawyer William Cuschieri replies, denying any threatening or insulting language was used against the lawyer. “What was said with regards to the AG was that there shouldn’t be any breaches of right to fair hearing and with respect to Jason Azzopardi, that he went on the tomb of Christ – this is in the public domain and common knowledge,” Cuschieri says.
14:28 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi dictates a note on behalf of the parte civile. “At the end of the last sitting, amongst raised voices, one of the accused, George Degiorgio addressed me with threatening language: ‘Sur Azzopardi, issa naraw ta’ min ħa tgħaddi’. This, together with insulting language aimed at the lawyer and the Attorney General. This is being formally brought to the attention of the court, with no request, so that the acts of this compilation of evidence reflect the actions of the accused.”
14:27 The court says it must wait for lawyer Marc Sant’s position on the matter.
14:26 Cuschieri says he will not cross-examine at this stage. The magistrate asks him whether he is renouncing the right to cross-examine the witness. “No, I am not renouncing and I am not refusing,” the lawyer insists.
14:24 The court reads out the decree. “As there is no interim measure requested, the constitutional judgment said that there should be a conclusion of evidence as speedily as possible.”
14:20 The court says it will decree on the issue. Cuschieri says that the recordings are “obviously pertinent to the case”.
14:20 One of the Degiorgio brothers leans forward and whispers something angrily to Cuschieri.
14:20 The deputy AG continues that on the point that there was a constitutional case filed, the prosecution notes that a constitutional case – not a constitutional reference – does not stop the proceedings and therefore this court must proceed to ensure the definitive conclusion of Melvin Theuma’s cross-examination.
14:19 Galea Farrugia continues: “These recordings were ordered to be exhibited and not heard in open court… with regards to the cross-examination not being only on the examination in chief, the prosecution says this has no basis in law.”
The Degiorgio brothers: Alfred Degiorgio (left) and George Degiorgio (right)
14:18 “Iva, dwejjaq,” the magistrate hits back.
14:17 He is interrupted by Cuschieri, who insists the court had not investigated or heard the recordings. “Xi dwejjaq,” he says.
14:17 Galea Farrugia says that in the last sitting, this court had, “after carrying out the necessary investigation…”
14:15 Cuschieri makes it clear that he is talking for the Degiorgios. Vince Muscat’s lawyer, Marc Sant, is in self-isolation.
14:14 Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia: “If the other side felt they disagreed with the decree, they have legal means to do challenge it. A constitutional case doesn’t stop these proceedings, there is not even a request for an interim measure.”
14:13 The magistrate says that if he has a problem with the court’s decrees there is the constitutional court for redress.
14:13 The magistrate asks how many constitutional court cases had been filed, and before who. “One,” Cuschieri replies, “before Mr Justice Mercieca.”
14:12 The defence is insisting that not only all the recordings should be produced, but also played, as happened in the proceedings against Yorgen Fenech.
14:11 Cuschieri says that in contestation of the decree given by this court on 21 January 2021, the lawyer presented a Constitutional case where, amongst other things, this decree is being attacked. “In addition to this, all the evidence should be brought in these proceedings and the whole truth from beginning to end said,” he says.
14:09 Cuschieri says that the decree of the criminal court of 7 January 2021, where it was ordered that all the recordings made by Melvin Theuma and which are pertinent to this case be exhibited should be respected. He continues that the recordings will allow them to continue their cross-examination, which is not necessarily one based solely on the examination in chief, as the credibility of the witness Melvin Theuma is being attacked.
14:06 Cuschieri dictates a note to the court.
14:06 Defence lawyer William Cuschieri tells the court he cannot continue the cross-examination of Melvin Theuma until the recordings are exhibited in this case. He also reminds the magistrate that he filed a constitutional case attacking this court last Thursday.
14:05 Proceedings start.
14:04 Security is tight. The Degiorgios are separated from Muscat by one prison guard. Two more guards are sitting behind them and another two are standing. Prison director, Col. Alexander Dalli is observing the situation from the door.
14:02 Yorgen Fenech’s defence lawyer Charles Mercieca is following the proceedings from the public benches.
14:02 The accused, George and Alfred Degiorgio, and Vince Muscat, take their seats in the courtroom.
14:00 QUICK REMINDER: Melvin Theuma was given a presidential pardon to tell all about the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. He acted as a middleman between businessman Yorgen Fenech – allegedly the mastermind behind the assassination – and the three men who executed the car bombing. Theuma had recorded conversations between himself and several other people, including Fenech when he feared that police were closing in on him. The recordings and Theuma’s testimony are key to the prosecution’s case against Fenech and strengthen the case against the three men. Theuma attempted suicide last summer but was cleared to continue with his testimony by three court-appointed psychiatrists. This is the first time he will step onto the witness stand after a six-month break.
13:57 Inspector Kurt Zahra has arrived. Parte civile lawyer Jason Azzopardi and defence lawyer William Cuschieri, who is appearing for the Degiorgio brothers, and lawyer Kathleen Grima, who is assisting Melvin Theuma, are also inside the courtroom.
13:55 Journalists have now taken their seats inside the courtroom.
13:46 At the end of the last sitting, the Degiorgio brothers went into a tirade of abuse against the magistrate and the prosecution, accusing them of breaching their human rights.
13:45 Theuma will continue testifying in the compilation of evidence against George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat. The three men stand charged with executing the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017.
13:42 Pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma is already inside the building. Security is tighter than usual with plain clothes and uniformed police officers patrolling the corridors.
13:40 Proceedings are expected to start at 2pm.
13:40 Good afternoon.