Magistrate raps Registrar of Courts for not summoning witnesses in MaltaToday contempt case

Witness evidence in MaltaToday’s contempt of court case will be heard next week before magistrate Victor Axiaq after no evidence was brought by the complainant for the first sitting

Witness evidence in MaltaToday’s contempt of court case will be heard next week before magistrate Victor Axiaq after no evidence was brought by the complainant for the first sitting.

The magistrate expressed annoyance at the fact that the Registrar of Courts had summoned no witnesses for this morning’s hearing. Over the years the practice had evolved such that the first sitting in such cases would simply be one for thrashing out the dates of the case, but Magistrate Axiaq wanted to buck that trend, telling the Registrar’s lawyer, Noel Bartolo that “this is not how this court works. Otherwise, what’s the point of having a sitting?”

After noting with disappointment, the fact that the plaintiff had no evidence prepared for today’s sitting, the magistrate then turned to MaltaToday’s lawyers and wryly observed that the defendant’s reply had been published in the newspaper before it was presented in court.

The recordings reported by MaltaToday revealed that Melvin Theuma, self-confessed middleman in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, had been forewarned of an FIAU investigation into his money laundering activities.

They also showed that Theuma had been leaked information that Vincent Muscat, il-Kohhu, one of the triggermen in the murder, had requested a pardon in return for information. One story revealed how Theuma was told that Castille would pin the assassination on fuel smuggling suspect Darren Debono and that Theuma was being briefed on developments in the police investigations. Another showed that Edwin Brincat, known as il-Gojja, had coached Theuma on what to say whilst recording his conversations with Fenech.

In an application filed by the Director of Courts, it was alleged that MaltaToday’s publication of the recordings contravened a court order from January last year which prohibited the publication of the recordings or their transcripts on pain of contempt of court proceedings.

The defendants, MaltaToday executive editor Matthew Vella, assistant editor Karl Azzopardi and executive director Saviour Balzan, are arguing that they had obtained the voice recordings from a Reddit thread after they were uploaded there by a third party, and not from the acts of the compilation of evidence. As a consequence, they could not know - and did not know to this day - whether the recordings they published were the same ones exhibited in the compilation proceedings and which were covered by the publication ban.

MaltaToday’s lawyers Veronique Dalli and Andrew Saliba informed the court this morning that they needed to verify that the recordings transferred to the online platform were the same as those being referred to by the Registrar.

The case was put off for the plaintiff’s evidence on 21 January, with the Registrar of Courts to testify.

READ MORE: MaltaToday in the dock over Melvin Theuma recording leaks

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