Caruana Galizia public inquiry: OPM communications chief quizzed over detention of journalists in Castille

OPM communications chief and former L-Orizzont editor take witness stand, ex-OPM official Neville Gafà asked to testify during next sitting due to lack of time for questioning • Follow our live blog of proceedings here

OPM communications chief Matthew Carbone is testifying before the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder on the night last November when members of the press were locked in Castille
OPM communications chief Matthew Carbone is testifying before the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder on the night last November when members of the press were locked in Castille
17:38 That’s it for today’s sitting. The inquiry board has adjourned for Wednesday at 2pm. Massimo Costa
17:38 Josef Caruana’s testimony ends here Massimo Costa
17:37 The inquiry board appears to reject the reason for the question, and instructs the witness to disregard it Massimo Costa
17:37 Gouder says he objects to Azzopardi’s question to Caruana about whether he and Joseph Muscat communicated through private email addresses about government work. Azzopardi argues that Gouder hasn’t got the legal standing to object Massimo Costa
17:35 Caruana’s lawyer Charlon Gouder interjects, but Azzopardi fires back, saying that someone would use their personal rather than government email address when they had something to hide. “Because that's what someone who wants to hide does!" Azzopardi says Massimo Costa
17:34 Azzopardi asks Caruana whether he communicated with Joseph Muscat or his staff through a private email address regarding government work. “Did Joseph Muscat send you an email from his josephmuscat.com email address?” Azzopardi asks Massimo Costa
17:33 "I was a journalist. It came from my sources,” Caruana replies Massimo Costa
17:33 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi asks the witness a question. Two days before the general election of 2017, during an episode of Xtra he was seen and heard reading from an FIAU report on Pilatus Bank. Azzopardi asks how he had a copy of the report in 2017 Massimo Costa
17:31 Josef Caruana is now being asked about his L-Orizzont editorial recommending the removal of certain journalists from their profession. In reply to this, Caruana mentions a Google group of which former PN minister Tonio Fenech was a member, in which former Times of Malta journalists Ivan Camilleri would send “twisted stories to attack Malta” Massimo Costa
17:28 Caruana replies: "In truth, whenever I posted anything... given my background, I was always careful about how to write. On the occasion you refer to, I was rebuked by my superiors and I had apologised" Massimo Costa
17:27 "As a person employed by the government then, can you say whether you were comfortable with some of the things you posted and whether any of your superiors had told you that it would be better to refrain from doing so?" Comodini Cachia asks Caruana Massimo Costa
17:27 Comodini Cachia asks Caruana whether he - as a public official - agreed with Twitter post which he had retweeted. She shows him three pages worth of tweets contained int he dossier Corinne Vella submitted to the inquiry board. Caruana had also shared a La Repubblica story linking Daphne’s murder to drug trafficking. Caruana says he is not a public official but a person of trust, prompting Comodini Cachia to ask who pays him, to which he answers “the government” Massimo Costa
17:18 "I worked till 5pm and meetings sometimes carried on till midnight," Caruana says Massimo Costa
17:17 Asked whether he had ever seen Yorgen Fenech at Castille, Caruana says he hadn't Massimo Costa
17:17 Lofaro asks Caruana whether he knew Neville Gafà. He says that he knew he worked at Castille, but was not privy to what his role was Massimo Costa
17:15 Judge Lofaro asks Caruana what he knows about the Truth Project. “Nothing,” Caruana replies, saying that it was similar to the Taste Your Own Medicine blog, run by Glenn Bedingfield. “It was a sort of ‘counter blog’ to other blogs,” he says Massimo Costa
17:14 Caruana is now asked about a Facebook group he is a member of, “Laburisti Maghqudin.” Caruana tells the board that he used the group to promote himself during his campaign for the European Parliament elections in 2019 Massimo Costa
17:12 The board asks Caruana whether he was aware of the fuel smuggling rumour before that, but he replies that he was not. “I heard it from MaltaToday. Saviour Balzan has his sources, I imagine.” Massimo Costa
17:10 Judge Mallia goes on to ask Caruana about the rumoured theory that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder was related to fuel smuggling. Caruana tells the board: “I believe it was mentioned by Saviour Balzan in MaltaToday” Massimo Costa
17:08 "There's only the army and the security service detail of the prime minister," he says of the type of security in Castille Massimo Costa
17:08 Josef Caruana is now asked about the security arrangements at Castille. There are a number of security staff, but he doesn’t know who they answer to, whether it was to the prime minister or his chief of staff, Caruana says Massimo Costa
17:06 "I had apologised for that,” replies Caruana about that particular tweet in question. The board points out to him that he had apologised to Joseph Muscat for the trouble that he had caused and not to the family of the victim Massimo Costa
17:05 “See if you remember this”, asks judge Said Pullicino, reading out a tweet by Caruana in which he tried to tie the leaving outside of Caruana Galizia's car with a conspiracy theory surrounding her death Massimo Costa
17:05 The board reads out a tweet: “We all get what we deserve, but only the successful with admit it.” Caruana says he doesn’t recall the tweet. “I have no idea,” he says Massimo Costa
17:04 But Caruana says he has no idea who wrote the blog post in question. (It is unclear what the contents of the blog post/tweet are). “No, I have no idea. I never used to write in English. I might have shared it on Facebook and it was picked up by Twitter, I don't know,” he says Massimo Costa
17:00 The board asks Caruana about a tweet featuring one of the articles from the Veru Biss blog. Caruana is given time to see the screenshot of the tweet in question, which is contained within the dossier Corinne Vella presented to the inquiry earlier in this sitting Massimo Costa
16:59 Asked whether he had heard of a certain blog by the name “Veru Biss”, he says he hadn’t Massimo Costa
16:58 The inquiry board confronts Caruana with the fact that he had sometimes used hard language in respect of Caruana Galizia. The court reads out words he had penned about a list of journalists who he said "should disappear from journalism." He recalls the words from memory, he says, and has no problem confirming what he had written Massimo Costa
16:56 The board asks Caruana whether he had written about Daphne Caruana Galizia. "There were many occasions,” when he did so, he says. “Sometimes as part of editorial work, other times on Facebook..." Massimo Costa
16:55 Caruana is asked by the inquiry board what his work is. He replies that hr works at the OPM coordinating replies to parliamentary questions, and other such work. Before that, he was the editor of l-Orizzont and the deputy editor of It-Torċa, he says Massimo Costa
16:54 Former l-Orizzont editor Josef Caruana now takes the stand Massimo Costa
16:53 Neville Gafà enters the courtroom, only to be asked by the court to come again on Wednesday, as their is insufficient time to question him. Gafà promises to come on Wednesday as requested Massimo Costa
16:50 Matthew Caruana Galizia steps off the stand, as Caruana Galizia family lawyer Comodini Cachia expresses concern at the fact that there are a number of witnesses waiting to give testimony Massimo Costa
16:47 Caruana Galizia says that one particular post, announcing Caruana Galizia’s death, had disappeared from the internet and all archive facilities. But, the witness says, he had seen the post with his own eyes when it has originally been posted on Bedingfield’s blog Massimo Costa
16:46 Caruana Galizia continues expounding the results of the research he carried out on Bedingfield’s blog. Bedingfield mentioned "Bidnija" 150 times, and "Bidnija bogan" some 80 times, he says. The archive of the blog which he compiled - downloaded from web archiving services - does not cover all the posts published on the blog, he says. “There are gaps, definitely, and there are posts which were not archived by the archiving websites." Massimo Costa
16:44 Matthew Caruana Galizia tells the board that during one of the periods when Bedingfield's website was down and unregistered, another blog, called Taste Your Own Medicine, had been set up. That blog closed when Bedingfield's website was up again, he says Massimo Costa
16:41 Glenn Bedingfield would post photos of Daphne on his blog, Caruana Galizia says. One of the most disturbing posts was a picture of his mother getting into a car, which was one of the cars being followed by the hitmen. "You could see the numberplate, the location, everything." Massimo Costa
16:39 The show contained a number of recurring propaganda themes, Matthew Caruana Galizia tells the inquiry board. “It’s just… It’s extremely disturbing,” he says Massimo Costa
16:39 The report Matthew Caruana Galizia presents also covers Bedingfield’s membership of secret hate groups. It also documents a television show Bedingfield presented with Equality European Commissioner Helena Dalli’s son Luke Dalli, called TANATNEJN. The show, Caruana Galizia says, included a recurring slot called “El Fava” showing his mother as a deranged with. In another skit, a man with a prosthetic hooked nose, pretending to be Daphne, drank Jack Daniels surrounded by candles Massimo Costa
16:35 When his blog was heavily active, Bedingfield had switched blogging platforms and this was the period when it was most active - from the end of 2015 to the beginning of 2018 - Caruana Galizia tells the inquiry. This, Caruana Galizia says, covered the period just after the Panama Papers broke Massimo Costa
16:33 Matthew Caruana Galizia has now taken the stand. He's presenting a number of CDs with a report he wrote relating to Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield’s blog. Using a number of IT tools, Caruana Galizia says he produced a timeline of activity on Bedingfield's website domain name. He says the domain name glennbedingfield.com was registered in 2003 and lapsed a number of times. It was revived in December 2015 after a long period of dormancy since 2012. The blog was closed in April 2018. Massimo Costa
16:23 A lot of photographs were taken whilst Caruana Galizia was being stalked, Vella says. Some of the photos were taken on the eve of her murder, says the witness. "What was he [Gafà] trying to prove?" Massimo Costa
16:22 Vella also presents a dossier on Neville Gafà. "What we found in Gafà's case is a series of hashtags... one was “#galiziabarra". It was also as if they believed their own propaganda and thought she was interested in politics,” Vella tells the inquiry Massimo Costa
16:12 Corinne Vella tells the board of attempts to mock Caruana Galizia's last words on her blog before she was murdered. “There is a lot of material there and it seems to tie in with an orchestrated campaign,” Vella says of the documents she has just presented Massimo Costa
16:12 Corine Vella says she collected screenshots of Josef Caruana's social media timelines on Facebook and Twitter. The documents contain four pages of notes, with the rest of the 50 pages being supporting screenshots. Vella says Caruana wrote editorials calling for the elimination of journalists, took part in a campaign against Caruana Galizia, accused her family of part in her murder, and took part in news leads distracting attention from the murder Massimo Costa
16:11 Caruana Galizia's sister Corrinne Vella now takes the oath as she presents the board with a series of documents. The documents were prepared at short notice to support the inquiry. They are about witnesses who are going to testify today, Josef Caruana and Neville Gafà. The data is all first hand and from open sources, Vella tells the inquiry board Massimo Costa
16:10 Carbone’s questioning has ended and he steps down from the stand Massimo Costa
16:10 Carbone denies he ever imposed such conditions on a media organisation. “I never said those words,” Carbone says, “"No absolutely, a lot of interviews have been given." Massimo Costa
16:09 Carbone is now asked whether there had ever been a request from a foreign media organisation for an interview with Joseph Muscat to which the OPM had replied that such an interview could go ahead as long as there were no questions about Caruana Galizia’s murder Massimo Costa
16:07 Azzopardi asks Carbone if he finds the question funny, prompting the board to intervene to cut the argument short Massimo Costa
16:06 Azzopardi asks Carbone about the mysterious visit to Baku, Azerbaijan involving Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi Keith Schembri and Kurt Farrugia and whether he had any notes on said visit. Azzopardi also asks whether the board could acquire any notes taken during that meeting. Carbone draws Jason Azzopardi's ire by chuckling Massimo Costa
16:06 Asked whether his notes are archived, Carbone replies that he generally doesn’t retain his notes Massimo Costa
16:05 Lawyer Azzopardi now asks Carbone about the procedure adopted whenever a person in his (Carbone’s) position travels abroad with the prime minister, and whether he takes notes. "When I go with him I don't take minutes, I take notes relevant to any press release I may issue later,” Carbone says Massimo Costa
16:04 Comodini Cachia asks Carbone to identify himself at an Occupy Justice vigil around November 2019. Carbone recounts what happened on that occasion: “I was leaving work at around 10pm and I needed to cross the square to my car. There was a protest and a media call, I met my friends who are journalists and I went there and took a photo of something that is public. I was called a terrorist for doing this." Massimo Costa
16:03 The board completes its questioning of Carbone, but Caruana Galizia family lawyer Comodini Cachia has more questions Massimo Costa
15:59 The board’s line of questioning now changes. Carbone is asked when the last time he spoke to Keith Schembri was. He replies that it was around November 2019, and that he wouldn’t speak to Schembri regularly Massimo Costa
15:59 Carbone reiterates that he did not given any order to close doors on journalists that night Massimo Costa
15:58 The board appears appeased. “That’s all we wanted,” it remarks Massimo Costa
15:58 Carbone is leafing through the pictures with the assistance of a court official, quietly identifying the persons he recognises. This contrasts sharply with his vehement resistance to name anyone just a few moments ago Massimo Costa
15:57 Carbone says he does not recognise several people. He recognises some who help set up lighting and others who help with backstage preparations. He names another as, Nigel Vella, an electrician, and another he says he recognises as a certain Anthony, but cannot recall the surname Massimo Costa
15:56 Carbone continues being shown pictures by a court official, marking the names of those he recognises. The press does not have copies of these photos. He identifies one other as a certain Jason Bonnici Massimo Costa
15:54 Azzopardi says that some of the men's names are common knowledge Carbone continues to name the persons in the photos, identifying one Mikhael Spiteri who works in customer care. Carbone’s lawyer Gouder looks visibly uncomfortable Massimo Costa
15:52 Looking at the photo of another person who was in the room that night, he says “I know this guy’s face but he wasn’t under my remit.” Azzopardi suggests it is Mark Gauci, a canvasser for minister Aaron Farrugia. This prompt another objection from Carbone's lawyer Charlon Gouder Massimo Costa
15:52 Carbone finally appears to acquiesce. He identifies one Joseph Scerri who works at the government’s customer care, and one Reuben Sciberras, who is employed with a minister. “I know them from their faces,” Carbone says Massimo Costa
15:50 As the lawyers argue, the board threatens to throw everybody out and continue with just the witness. Judge Abigail Lofaro asks what Carbone could possibly prejudice in terms of the police investigation on the matter Massimo Costa
15:49 Carbone is being incredibly evasive. “People? What do you mean by ‘these people’?” he lamely asks. Massimo Costa
15:48 Lawyer Azzopardi mentions Ronnie Vella and a host of other names. “You know these people,” he tells Carbone, prompting Carbone’s lawyer to again object loudly Massimo Costa
15:48 Carbone is again asked to look at the photos of the security staff present at Castille and to say if he knows anyone, to which he replies “What does ‘know’ mean?” Massimo Costa
15:47 Carbone’s lawyer is loudly protesting that he is not testifying about things Carbone knows. "They are trying to drive him into a dead end,” lawyer Gouder says Massimo Costa
15:45 Carbone again says he cannot interfere with the ongoing police investigation on the case. “Answer our questions, then do what you want with the police," says an exasperated judge Mallia Massimo Costa
15:44 The proceedings are now getting noticeably heated. The board is audibly irate at the witness for refusing to give a straight answer. Caruana Galizia family lawyer Jason Azzopardi adds to the pandemonium, accusing Carbone of “thinking he is above the law” Massimo Costa
15:43 Judge Mallia poses the question again. “I am going to ask you one last time, who were they? Were they police? Were they staff? Tell us whether you want not to reply,” he asks Carbone Massimo Costa
15:43 Comodini Cachia suggests that perhaps the police should arrest Carbone and interrogate him in connection with the Castille incident. Carbone’s lawyer Gouder loudly object to this Massimo Costa
15:42 "In the police investigations, it is understood that they are investigating every person involved," Carbone’s lawyer Gouder says. The board asks Carbone if he had spoken to the police about the incident. Carbone says he hadn't Massimo Costa
15:41 Comodini Cachia asks Carbone to point out, using the photos presented, who the persons in the room that night were. Carbone’s lawyer Charlon Gouder objects again, leading judge Mallia to get irate Massimo Costa
15:40 Carbone says that one of the persons where identified in the media asRonnie Vella, an official in the OPM communications office Massimo Costa
15:39 The inquiry board judges interject, telling Carbone that it is not up to him to decide what he wants to say. “Don’t you know who the people grinning at the door [after the Castille conference] where,” the board asks Carbone Massimo Costa
15:38 Carbone refuses to answer, however. "I repeat that I am not going to comment on issues under police investigation... At that time I was fully focused on the journalists and the security of the prime minister. Now, in so far as who was on the doors..." Carbone says Massimo Costa
15:36 The inquiry board reminds Carbone that it had asked him who the security staff at Castille where during the time of the incident. "Were they protestors? Did they invade you too?" asks board member Said Pullicino, "The question is simple: who are those people? Massimo Costa
15:35 Carbone says that, had he during the incident in the early hours of 29 November not taken action, “today we would be talking about an assault on [former] prime minister [Joseph Muscat] or worse” Massimo Costa
15:34 Carbone says that government officials had spent two months being besieged at Castille, with the turbulent period also having seen an occasion when minister Owen Bonnici’s car was hit and the minister spat upon Massimo Costa
15:32 Carbone says that exactly two minutes and 40 second after Muscat had left the conference hall’s corridor, he (Carbone) had proceeded to allow the journalists to leave. “I was insulted and called an animal and all kinds on unrepeatable things,” he says Massimo Costa
15:31 Carbone continues recounting what happened that night. He says police had then created a buffer between the journalists and the public. A press conference took place, followed by eight minutes of questioning, and it was over. After the conference was over, it was normal procedure to let the prime minister leave from behind... and the journalists were asked to wait for him to leave. He emphasised that it was completely normal that journalists were made to wait as the prime minister exited Massimo Costa
15:29 In the circumstances, Carbone says he had wanted to call off the press conference, but former prime minister Joseph Muscat had insisted that it go ahead Massimo Costa
15:28 Carbone says there were over 50 to 60 journalists that night. As he was trying to let the journalists in the building, members of the public had jumped over the barricades and started pushing at the doors Massimo Costa
15:24 Carbone replies that, at the time of the incident “They [the people gathered outside] came into Castille [to get us].” He recounts that, at around 3am (on 29 November), he had gone downstairs to personally see the journalists and demonstrators who had entered Castille Massimo Costa
15:21 Judge Mallia puts the question to Carbone again of who the security staff at Castille were that night, this time raising his voice up a notch. "Who were they? Police, army, Civilians?” judge Mallia asks Massimo Costa
15:20 Carbone’s lawyer Charlon Gouder asks what relevance the incident in question has to the inquiry. Caruana Galizia family lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia replies that the relevance is that it would highlight the state of impunity and the harassment which journalists were subjected to Massimo Costa
15:19 Caruana Galizia family lawyers Andrew Borg Cardona and Jason Azzopardi point out that Carbone was himself present during the incident, and that stills of a video take on that occasion show he was there Massimo Costa
15:17 The inquiry board wants to show photos of security staff present during the incident, but Carbone’s lawyer objects, saying that any comments by Carbone on the matter could prejudice police investigations into the case, which are ongoing Massimo Costa
15:16 Carbone answers that “As far as I know [the journalists] were in no way locked in” Massimo Costa
15:15 Carbone is asked about the incident last November when journalists were detained at Castille, at the height of the crisis in the Muscat government triggered by the fallout from revelations emerging from the Caruana Galizia murder investigation. The board asks Carbone whether the “security” persons - mentioned in the newspaper as having prevented journalists from leaving Castille late during the night of 28 November Massimo Costa
15:12 "I am aware that the security setup in place is that provided by the AFM. Other than that there is the Prime Minister’s security staff are responsible for his security, Carbone says Massimo Costa
15:11 Carbone is now further questioned about the security setup at Castille. He tells the board that the building’s main gates were manned by an Armed Forces of Malta security detail. Carbone’s lawyer, Charlon Gouder, objects to this line of questioning, saying Carbone was in charge of communications not security. The board overruled the objection, highlighting that Carbone was a Castille every day and was thus familiar with the security setup Massimo Costa
15:09 Carbone tells the board that, during the time the Panama Papers story broke, former OPM communications head Kurt Farrugia would handle the matter. Asked if he had ever taken charge during Farrugia’s absence, Carbone says he would get involved “when we needed to communicate something” Massimo Costa
15:08 The subjects now moves on to the Panama Papers revelations and the Egrant inquiry. Carbone is asks if he was ever spoken to about the Panama Papers. He reiterates that he would only be spoken to about them in cases where a public statement was going to be issued. "When I was given information that we were going to deny an allegation, I would issue a statement. I was never involved in discussions about the Panama Papers,” he says Massimo Costa
15:05 Carbone is now asked about his access to information on FIAU reports. Asked whether he was ever involved in discussions regarding reports drawn up by the FIAU, Carbone says his involvement in such cases would be limited to the issuance of a public statement, if such a statement was issued Massimo Costa
15:03 Carbone says that in order to get to Castille’s second floor, where former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri’s office was, one needed an access card for the lift Massimo Costa
15:02 “I’ve never spoken to Yorgen Fenech, I know what he looks like thanks to the media,” Carbone emphasises Massimo Costa
15:01 The topic now shifts to Caruana Galizia suspected murder mastermind Yorgen Fenech. The board had heard in previous testimony that Fenech was a regular visitor at Castille. Carbone says that in order to get to Castille’s second floor, where former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri’s office was, one needed an access card for the liftThe board asks Carbone if he had ever seen Fenech or others mentioned in relation to the murder investigations at Castille. Carbone says he had never seen Fenech there. Massimo Costa
14:59 Judge Lofaro suggests that, in the case of The Shift, for instance, their journalists may have not been notified of government press events. Carbone says all notifications are also posted online apart from being sent by email Massimo Costa
14:59 Carbone says he was unaware of instances when The Shift journalists were refused entry to government events. He says that the DOI issues access cards - not press cards - which give journalists permission to access government events. In this regard, the DOI sends media advisories to registered press organisations Massimo Costa
14:57 Judge Abigail Lofaro now asks Carbone about the issue concerning the refusal of access to journalists for certain government events. She specifically mentions testimony on the matter by The Shift journalist Caroline Muscat at last week’s public inquiry hearing Massimo Costa
14:54 Carbone tells the inquiry that he is not aware of any specific FOI requests relating to the Caruana Galizia murder investigation Massimo Costa
14:53 Carbone elaborates on how the process to evaluate FOI requests works. He explains that the civil service has an FOI unit. There are times when this unit proceeds on its own steam, for example in the case of FOI requests concerning technical matters. When the FOI request has a political aspect, the Office of the Prime Minister is consulted, he says Massimo Costa
14:51 Carbone is now asked about his role in processing Freedom of Information requests which are sent to the government. He says that the government’s FOI unit would be consulted in cases where the request involved media houses, but that he was unaware of who had the final say on whether or not to accept a request Massimo Costa
14:50 Judge Mallia asks Carbone if he is familiar with the Truth Project. Carbone says he had heard of it, but not directly. “Is it the same as the Daphne project?” he asks Massimo Costa
14:48 Carbone tells the inquiry that he had met journalists for informal chats after the assassination. “They were more interested in the general situation concerning things such as the state of the rule of law, and so on,” he says Massimo Costa
14:47 Carbone says that, in his role, he is not involved in discussions concerning government officials, but is only asked to publish information. Asked who would give him any information related to the case, he says it was his former boss Kurt Farrugia Massimo Costa
14:45 Asked if he had a role in the narrative connecting fuel smuggling with the Caruana Galizia murder, he says "absolutely nothing." No journalists had contacted him about it, he says Massimo Costa
14:45 The inquiry board asks Carbone about a previous rumour which has tied the Caruana Galizia murder with fuel smuggling. In this respect, Carbone asks to make a statement. He says the facts he is in possession of are those which are already in the public domain Massimo Costa
14:43 Asked if he held any other employment during this period, he replies in the negative Massimo Costa
14:42 Carbone tells the inquiry board that he is currently head of government communications. In 2013 he was deputy head and was given the promotion to head in August last year Massimo Costa
14:40 Matthew Carbone is the first to take the witness stand Massimo Costa
14:40 Lawyer Charlon Gouder is assisting Matthew Carbone and Caruana Massimo Costa
14:40 Caruana Galizia family lawyer Therese Commodini Cachia presents the board with a dossier on Josef Caruana, including press cuttings, screenshots and other documents Massimo Costa
14:40 Buttigieg had previously requested to be admitted to the inquiry Massimo Costa
14:37 State Advocate Victoria Buttigieg has also just entered Massimo Costa
14:36 The public inquiry board members - judge emeritus Michael Mallia, who is chairing the inquiry, former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino, and sitting judge Abigail Lofaro, have entered the courtroom Massimo Costa
14:25 The media have taken their place in the courtroom. Outside, Neville Gafà sits alone, playing with his smartphone. Gafà had previously been quoted as saying that he had not been notified of today's sitting, but he has nonetheless turned up Massimo Costa
14:24 Good afternoon. We are back in court for the continuation of the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder Massimo Costa

The public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia continued this afternoon with OPM communications head Matthew Carbone and former L-Orizzont editor Josef Caruana having testified.

Carbone, who was previously deputy head of communications before being appointed head in August 2019, told the board that his role at Castille was strictly limited to communications.

He was quizzed by the board over the events which transpired during the night of 28 November and early morning of 29 November 2019, when journalists were blocked from leaving Castille after then prime minister Joseph Muscat had held a press conference amid the political crisis triggered by revelations emerging from the investigation into Caruana Galizia's murder.

Carbone insisted that journalists had never been locked in Castille, and that it was normal practice for the prime minister to be given time to leave the venue before members of the press are let out.

Carbone was also asked to identify the names of security staff who were in Castille at the time preventing journalists from leaving. Carbone and his lawyer Charlon Gouder initially objected to the giving of names when shown photos. The communications chief, however, eventually did identify the persons whom he recognised when pressed to do so by the inquiry board.

The bulk of the testimony of Caruana - a former editor of pro-Labour news outlet l-Orizzont who was later employed by the OPM, before contesting the 2019 MEP elections on a Labour ticket - concerned the harsh language he had used in his writings concerning Caruana Galizia.

Caruana had also penned a notorious editorial in L-Orizzont that had called for the purging of journalists who criticised the Labour government and written stories about government corruption.

Asked about the strong language he employed, Caruana told the board that, in instances where he had been rebuked by the government for certain things he wrote, he had apologised.

Neville Gafà to testify on Wednesday

Neville Gafà was also due to take the witness stand and was present in court, but he was asked by the inquiry board to return during the next sitting on Wednesday, since there wasn't enough time for his questioning.

Gafà will most likely face questions for his confrontational relationship with the journalist in his nebulous role in the previous administration.

On the eve of her assassination, he had uploaded a photo taken by a person stalking Caruana Galizia.

Gafà was allegedly involved in a Libyan medical visas racket when working as a envoy for the Office of the Prime Minister. He continued to court controversy when, in November last year, he held held unofficial meetings with a Libyan warlord, Haithem Tajouri, posing as the prime minister’s special envoy. 

Last week's sitting

During last week's sitting, the inquiry heard the testimony of journalists Caroline Muscat, Monique Agius and Miguela Xuereb, who described incidents of harassment by PL supporters. Muscat said that this tied in with an OPM-orchestrated disinformation campaign. 

At that sitting, the inquiry also heard how businessman Paul Apap Bologna had tried selling the gas power station plan to the Nationalist government in 2009 but secretary-general of the day, lawyer Paul Borg Olivier, had rejected the plan.

Four years later, a plan very similar to the one Borg Olivier had been shown, was presented by the Labour Party as part of its energy plan for the 2013 election campaign.

The public inquiry, which is being conducted by three retired judges, is entrusted with the task of determining whether any wrongful action or omission by or within any State entity could have facilitated the assassination of Caruana Galizia or failed to prevent it, and particularly whether the State knew or should have known of risks to the journalist’s life at the time of her murder.

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