Lawyers object to criminal proceedings against Caruana Galizia bomb-makers being held behind closed doors

Most of Tuesday's proceedings were either banned from publication or held behind closed doors

Reporting restrictions have once again hampered news coverage of the case against the men accused of procuring the bomb used to assasinate journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017 and with carrying out the unrelated 2015 killing of lawyer Carmel Chircop.

Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo presided over an afternoon sitting in the compilation of evidence against the tal-Maksar brothers Robert and Adrian Agius, George Degiorgio and Jamie Vella.

As the sitting began, the court issued a decree, turning down Robert Agius’ request to introduce evidence which had recently been given by Superintendent Keith Arnaud in the separate proceedings over the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.  Agius’ lawyers had previously asked the court to re-examine witnesses Superintendent Keith Arnaud and Inspector Wayne Camilleri, who had handled the investigation into the two Maksar brothers, as well as Vella and Degiorgio.

The court’s refusal was based on the grounds that the evidence requested was part of a magisterial inquiry which was still ongoing and was therefore subject to secrecy. 

The first witness summoned today was a notary who testified about inheritance-related issues, details of which, however, are subject to a court-imposed ban on publication.

Homicide squad police inspector Kurt Zahra took the stand after the notary, but his testimony was also made unavailable to the public after the court upheld the AG’s request that it hear the witness behind closed doors in order to avoid “possible tampering with evidence.”

Defence lawyer Alfred Abela objected, forcefully arguing that the prosecution had taken to making such requests whenever the defence summoned a witness of its own. All of the witnesses that the prosecution wanted to summon had already given evidence in the magisterial inquiry, he said. “According to Arnaud, the only witnesses left to testify are telecommunications companies, so what is the risk of tampering with evidence?”

““Because the inquiry is still open,” prosecutor Francesco Refalo hit back, prompting an angry exchange with Abela, who questioned the fairness of the emerging use of the fact that inquiries have not been concluded to justify the suppression of news reporting on court cases.

The case continued behind closed doors.

Lawyers Alfred Abela, Rene Darmanin, Ishmael Psaila and William Cuschieri appeared for the accused.

Lawyers Anthony Vella and Francesco Refalo represented the Office of the Attorney General in the proceedings.

Superintendent Keith Arnaud and Inspectors Shawn Pawney and Wayne Camilleri are prosecuting.