Caruana Galizia murder: Defence insists case 'orchestrated by a liar to frame' Yorgen Fenech

Yorgen Fenech's compilation of evidence continues with his defence team claiming their client was framed for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia

Murder suspect Yorgen Fenech
Murder suspect Yorgen Fenech

Yorgen Fenech’s defence team claimed their client was framed for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia by “a liar”, who “bought” a presidential pardon.

The accusation was levelled towards Melvin Theuma, the chief witness in the case against Fenech, who stands charged with masterminding the journalist’s assassination.

Theuma was given a presidential pardon last year after he was arrested and identified as the middleman between Fenech and the three men who executed the murder.

Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb on 16 October 2017 outside her Bidnija house.

During the continuation of the compilation of evidence against Fenech on Wednesday, defence lawyer Charles Mercieca accused the prosecution of coaching its witnesses.

The claims were denied by Inspector Keith Arnaud.

Mercieca insisted the defence did not have access to all the information extracted from secret recordings made by Theuma, claiming that in one of the conversations with Edwin Brincat, a payment of €15,000 to the former police commissioner was mentioned in return for a pardon.

But the defence’s blanket request to be given access to all the data concerning people involved in this case was rejected by the court, insisting a more specific request had to be made.

 “The thing that hurts the most is that Fenech is still in prison. This is a case orchestrated by a liar to frame Yorgen Fenech. We have a man under arrest, investigations underway and the prosecution knew that the magisterial inquiry into this case was at the AG,” the defence lawyer insisted.

However, Mercieca’s antics in court were derided by Arnaud, who called them a messa in scena, and parte civile lawyer Jason Azzopardi who described them as a media stunt.

Arnaud insisted that the defence’s narrative that some recordings were kept hidden had been disproven.

“Had they been hidden they wouldn’t have ended up in the defence's hands,” Arnaud told the court. He said Europol had extracted the device data.

Arnaud added that the investigation into Fenech had not concluded yet.

Court ruling

Earlier, the court threw out a request filed by Fenech, who had asked for the appointment of an expert to set up a data room in which the data that Europol have extracted from Fenech’s phone and which is set to be exhibited in court in a future sitting is sorted according to its relevance to the case.

In his court application requesting the data room be set up, Fenech referred to a court sitting in which the court upheld a similar request in the case of the data extracted from Melvin Theuma’s electronic equipment and that belonging to his relatives. The accused went on to claim that the Court had given an indication that the same will be done with Fenech’s data.

The murder suspect maintained that the request took into consideration that the data might contain information on third parties which if divulged in public would prejudice their right to a private life.

The Attorney General as well as the parte civile objected to the request arguing that since the court experts which were appointed in the inquiry into murder had been tasked with extracting all the data on electronic equipment which was seized by the police from Fenech, they have to exhibit all the data extracted during the compilation and not just part of it.

The court threw out the request for a data room, saying that it deplored the allegation of leaks being made by the accused to sustain his request.

Previous sitting

11:41 That's it for today. Thank you for following. Kurt Sansone
11:41 The court is now thrashing out next sitting date, which is slated for 2 December at 10am. Kurt Sansone
11:35 The defence lawyer also asks about Melvin Theuma's health. The court replies that three individual medical experts have been appointed to assess his fitness to testify. Their reports are not yet completed. Kurt Sansone
11:34 Mercieca asks for an update on a request for a data room for all recordings and information elevated from electronic devices. The court says the request had to be made by an application. Kurt Sansone
11:31 The court asks the prosecution if it needs a transcription of the audio-visual statements being exhibited. Arnaud says that it is best if there is one. Kurt Sansone
11:28 Fenech chats to his other lawyer, Gianluca Caruana Curran. Fenech has a faint smile on his face. The lawyer has been sitting down next to the accused for some time now. Kurt Sansone
11:27 The defence says it is not in a position to limit its request for the retention of call profile data to certain individuals due to the fact that it has not been given the necessary information about these individuals which could only be given by the police investigating the crime. It repeats its request for disclosure of the evidence against Fenech. Kurt Sansone
11:26 Arnaud asks that the defence be made to justify every individual they need the phone data for. Kurt Sansone
11:22 The defence replies that it had made the request with the little information it had at hand. Kurt Sansone
11:19 The magistrate says it would be more practical and favourable to the defence to make a more specific request. Kurt Sansone
11:18 The court says that the request for the call profiles was still too vast in scope. “The request as formulated, is already denied,” the magistrate says. Kurt Sansone
11:17 Mercieca says Melvin Theuma could have more than one phone number and because the defence has not been given disclosure, it cannot know. Kurt Sansone
11:14 Mercieca rebuts that it is not a fishing expedition, but that every person is important in this web. “Let Jason Azzopardi formally inform the court that he is protecting these third parties... but what is good for the goose is good for the gander,” the defence lawyer argues. Kurt Sansone
11:13 Azzopardi refers to the arson attacks on Daphne Caruana Galizia’s and Saviour Balzan’s respective houses. “Such a request had been denied by a judge,” Azzopardi says. Kurt Sansone
11:12 Parte civile lawyer Jason Azzopardi: “This is a fishing expedition. We are on very dangerous ground. There is also a name of a lawyer. The defence wants an open-ended fishing expedition... completely illegal and dangerous. The fact that someone is daring to ask for all this data is dangerous.” Kurt Sansone
11:11 Mercieca: “There is a web of information between these people and others. The only person who can clarify this web is the prosecuting official and we have been asking him to do so for a long time.” Kurt Sansone
11:10 On the call logs, Mercieca says that in the interest of transparency, “as there is data relating to third parties which could be abused”, the data should be retained by the service provider. “The court can ask that the data is not overwritten,” Arnaud says. Kurt Sansone
11:03 The court orders the prosecution to indicate those parts of the audio-visual recordings, which refer to other crimes not related to the accused and these proceedings. Kurt Sansone
11:02 The witness replies in the negative. Kurt Sansone
11:02 Mercieca: “Are the investigations into Fenech concluded?” Kurt Sansone
11:02 Cross-examined by Mercieca, he is asked whether it is Melvin Theuma's voice that is heard on the tapes. “On my part I believe it is him,” he replies. Kurt Sansone
10:57 Arnaud now takes the stand to exhibit copies of the interrogation of Melvin Theuma in November last year. Kurt Sansone
10:56 Arnaud explains that it was a good thing that this came up as the phone taps are intelligence as part of the interrogation techniques used on Edwin Brincat. He says that Brincat did not want to speak to the police. “We used them, so we didn't want to hide them. We didn't force or coach him to say these things,” Arnaud says. Kurt Sansone
10:53 Mercieca objects to the fact that Fenech is being detained with no end in sight and the investigations are still ongoing. Kurt Sansone
10:52 Mercieca insists that everything being done by the defence is legal. “If he [Azzopardi or Arnaud] thinks that fundamental rights are hogwash then he must examine his conscience. That Edwin Brincat il-Ġojja is shown phone taps where he is telling Melvin to point his finger at Fenech as the mastermind… what is he not understanding?” Kurt Sansone
10:49 The magistrate says she will not be making decisions on anything submitted by means of a note, slamming her hands on the table in front of her. “The gathering of evidence is underway and the defence has the legal avenues to challenge it,” she says. Kurt Sansone
10:45 Parte civile lawyer Jason Azzopardi says that the note filed by the defence is simply a media stunt that means nothing legally. “The court is not a skip where people throw allegations by means of a note,” he says. Kurt Sansone
10:45 Arnaud insists that the investigation is still ongoing. “There are fast parts and slow parts. We are being transparent by taking audio-visiual statements and not doing anything hidden.” Kurt Sansone
10:43 Arnaud: “I know nothing about any tapes with Mario Tonna… if he has some he should share it with the prosecution.” Kurt Sansone
10:43 Both sides are talking over each other and the court is getting annoyed. Kurt Sansone
10:42 Arnaud strongly denies the coaching allegation made by the defence. Kurt Sansone
10:42 Arnaud: “This was either a messa in scena for the media or they are not understanding this simple fact.” Kurt Sansone
10:41 Prosecuting inspector Keith Arnaud remarks that the ‘hidden tapes’ narrative has been disproven. “Had they been hidden they wouldn’t have ended up in the defence's hands,” he insists. He reiterates that it was Europol that extracted the device data. Kurt Sansone
10:39 Mercieca: “The thing that hurts the most is that Fenech is still in prison. This is a case orchestrated by a liar to frame Yorgen Fenech. We have a man under arrest, investigations underway and the prosecution knew that the magisterial inquiry into this case was at the AG.” Kurt Sansone
10:38 The court says it is waiting for the transcription of the recordings and the gathering of evidence continues. Kurt Sansone
10:37 Mercieca: “What are we going to do when we get to the jury stage? What are we going to do when tapes of Theuma, and others are shown to the jury? How are the AG and police objecting to this evidence?” Kurt Sansone
10:34 Arnaud is unmoved. He takes notes. Kurt Sansone
10:33 Mercieca insists the prosecution is also suppressing evidence, pointing to a number of tapes which had only been exhibited at the request of the defence. “These tapes show that Theuma is a liar,” he says. Kurt Sansone
10:32 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca says that the prosecution is “verging on the illegal” as it is speaking to the witnesses to give credence to Melvin Theuma's “purchased” proklama and then coaching him on what to say. He claims to have heard the prosecution coaching Theuma to lie on the witness stand. “So, how can we have faith in this prosecution?” Kurt Sansone
10:31 There is some friction between the defence and prosecution as Inspector Keith Arnaud exhibits six DVDs of statements taken by the police. The court rules that they will be retained as is. Kurt Sansone
10:28 The inquiry report drawn up by Magistrate Neville Camilleri, who had taken up the Caruana Galizia murder inquiry after the previous magistrate was made a judge, is exhibited. Kurt Sansone
10:24 There is also a request by the parte civile to question the prosecuting inspector. This seems to have been rejected for the time being. Kurt Sansone
10:18 One application was filed by the accused asking for an expert to examine data extracted from his devices. The court denies this request. Kurt Sansone
10:17 The magistrate enters the courtroom and the sitting begins. There were applications which the magistrate will now decree on. Kurt Sansone
10:12 Hall 9 is already full to capacity as we wait for Magistrate Rachel Montebello to emerge from chambers. Kurt Sansone
10:02 We are inside the courtroom waiting for proceedings to start. Murder suspect Yorgen Fenech has just walked in and is speaking to his lawyer Charles Mercieca. Kurt Sansone
10:02 Good morning. Kurt Sansone

In the previous sitting, inspector Keith Arnaud testified behind closed doors. Arnaud presented in court various statements collected by the police during lenthy interrogations with various individuals as part of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation. 

READ MORE: Yorgen Fenech compilation of evidence heard behind closed doors

The evidence against Fenech primarily rests on the testimony of Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the murder. Theuma, who had secretly recorded various conversations between himself, Fenech and others, was given a presidential pardon to tell all last year.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello is hearing the compilation of evidence against Fenech.

The defence lawyers are Marion Camilleri, Gianluca Caruana Curran and Charles Mercieca.

The prosecution is being led by inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra, assisted by the Attorney General.



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