Judge throws out George Degiorgio 'frame up' allegation

A court has ruled that George Degiorgio, one of the persons accused of carrying out the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, was not framed, as he alleged

George Degiorgio (file photo)
George Degiorgio (file photo)

In its Constitutional jurisdiction, the First Hall of the Civil Court has ruled that George Degiorgio, one of the persons accused of carrying out the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, was not framed, as he alleged.

Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb attack as she left her home in Bidnija on 16 October 2017.

George Degiorgio is indicted, together with his brother Alfred, over the murder.

Degiorgio, known as iċ-Ċiniż, was identified by the police as the person who remotely triggered the bomb that killed the journalist.

Police evidence presented in court put Degiorgio on his boat, the Maya, below the Great Siege Bell in Grand Harbour, when the SMS triggering the bomb was sent.

READ ALSO: FBI agents tell court killer SMS read '#REL1=ON'

Courts have heard how Degiorgio allegedly received the signal from his brother Alfred Degiorgio, known as il-Fulu, who acted as a spotter in Bidnija along with Vincent Muscat, known as il-Koħħu. Muscat later admitted his guilt as part of a plea deal and has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The three men were arrested in December 2017 and charged in court with the journalist’s murder. The three are known criminals with a string of high profile crimes to their name.

However, in a constitutional application filed in September 2018, George Degiorgio’s lawyer, William Cuschieri, asked the court to declare that his client’s right to a fair hearing had been breached, alleging that the police had been angling for evidence to justify his arrest.

In the Constitutional case, Degiorgio had insisted that he was accused of the murder “on the pretext or supposition that he was on a particular boat” when the murder occurred. He described the prosecution’s request to appoint an expert to identify the boat he was allegedly on when the murder occurred as an attempted frame-up.

The defendants in the Constitutional case, the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner insisted that the evidence involving the boat was only part of a much larger body of evidence upon which Degiorgio had been arraigned in Court.

In a judgment handed down earlier today, Mr Justice Grazio Mercieca ruled that a breach of the Constitutional right to a fair hearing could only be declared if criteria which have been clearly established by law were present.

“Clearly, the complaints of the applicant do not figure in any of these [criteria]. That which the applicant is truly requesting is that this Court decides issues relating to the regulation and appreciation of evidence, which is the domain of the courts of criminal judicature.

“But this Court lacks the competence to involve itself in criminal proceedings in such a manner.  Therefore it is not even going to pronounce itself on whether the applicant’s allegations are factual or not as if it does so, there is a danger of prejudicing the criminal proceedings. This could be detrimental both to the prosecution and to the defence.”

The law wants this type of proceedings to be used only in exceptional cases, when there is truly a need for them due to the lack of availability of adequate ordinary remedies, and not be filed haphazardly in a way that takes up the precious time of these courts, which time could have been used to hear other cases. Otherwise, there would be the trivialisation of the special procedure used when a breach of fundamental human rights is alleged.”

Besides this, it was clear from the testimony of Superintendent Keith Arnaud, who is prosecuting the case, that the boat-related evidence was not the only, nor the determining evidence which led to the arrest and charging of the accused in relation to this murder said the judge. “Rather, it was only one amongst many others.”

The case was dismissed with costs to be borne by the plaintiff.