Degiorgio brothers cry discrimination as they describe prison conditions in court

The Degiorgio brothers maintain they are being discriminated against every time the courts deny them bail

Alfred and George Degiorgio gave a rare insight into the conditions of the ‘punishment division’ at Corradino Correctional Facility in a human rights case over their repeated denial of bail.

The two brothers testified on Friday in a human rights case where they claim they are being discriminated against every time the courts deny them bail on grounds of public disorder.

Both brothers are awaiting trial as alleged hitmen in the car bomb explosion that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia. They were placed under preventive arrest since 5 December 2017, two months after the journalist’s murder, when they were arrested during an early morning raid at the Marsa potato sheds.

Alfred Degiorgio recalled being handcuffed by the arresting officers, who came to the sheds at around 7:30am. They were kept at the sheds until 10:30pm.

They were eventually escorted to the police depot and held there for 36 hours. Once they released their statements, they were taken “straight to court” for their arraignment.  

The brothers did not request bail that day, but their lawyer went on to file many bail requests before the Magistrates’ Court and the Criminal Court. Each request was rejected on the grounds of public disorder.

“We are already condemned in jail. We should be presumed innocent, but I feel that we are not,” Alfred said.

He recalled requesting to be electronically tagged and released on bail. But the judge turned down this request as the court could not predict who the brothers might walk into outside of prison.

When George Degiorgio took the witness stand, he confirmed everything his brother said before him.

“As Maltese citizens we have a right to bail. Isn’t that what the Constitution says? Doesn’t that apply to us too? We didn’t buy a passport…” George said, before his lawyer told him not to deviate from the point.

The punishment division

Alfred Degiorgio have a brief glimpse of what life is like at Corradino’s Division 5, also known as “the punishment division”.

He said that inmates who cause disturbance are transferred to that division, with no access to church, school or gym facilities.  

“You get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee, and there is nothing else to do.”

He explained that meetings with their lawyer were difficult because the conversation had to take place across a glass screen whenever the lawyer brought documents.

They were allowed a one-hour weekly visit with family, but this took place inside a small glass room without a fan. Inmates in other divisions had proper visiting rooms.

Alfred Degiorgio added that inmates used to be able to get food from outside Corradino, but this practice stopped when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

No escorts

Before the hearing, Madam Justice Hayman scolded prison officials for failing to escort the Degiorgios to court for their hearing.

The hearing was scheduled at 10:30am, but the brothers’ lawyer William Cuschieri informed the judge that his client called to tell him that they had not been escorted to court.

A prison guard explained that the Degiorgios were not among the list of inmates to be brought to the courthouse on Friday.

The judge directed her deputy registrar to contact the prison facility for an explanation, while ordering that the brothers be brought to testify within 30 minutes, or else face charges of contempt.

The sitting had to be temporarily suspended until the brothers arrived in their escort.

The case continues in August.

Lawyer William Cuschieri represented the applicants. State Advocate Chris Soler represented the respondents while lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia represented the Caruana Galizia family.