Yorgen Fenech takes Malta to European Court over bail denials

The man accused of masterminding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia claims his human rights are being breached due to his prolonged detention

Yorgen Fenech is being charged for allegedly masterminding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia
Yorgen Fenech is being charged for allegedly masterminding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia

Yorgen Fenech, the man accused of masterminding the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, has lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over his prolonged detention.

Fenech's legal team claims that, after 15 failed bail applications, the authorities’ refusals for bail are becoming more generic, repetitive, and stereotyped.

Fenech was first denied bail in December 2019, a month after his arraignment, with the courts citing concerns over the tampering of evidence and disturbance of public order.

Despite eight subsequent unsuccessful bail applications, Fenech's lawyers continued to argue for his release from preventive arrest.

In May 2021, Fenech's lawyers filed constitutional proceedings before the First Hall, Civil Court, arguing that the repeated denial of bail breached his fundamental rights. The application was rejected due to concerns that he would abscond, given that he was on his yacht en route to Sicily during his arrest.

Fenech was issued with a bill of indictment in August 2021, moving the case to the pre-trial stage before the Criminal Court.

However, his lawyers argue that his "protracted detention" breaches his right to trial within a reasonable time or otherwise release pending trial in terms of Article 5(3) of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Fenech's lawyers, Lawyers Charles Mercieca, Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri, claim that the courts' reasons for rejecting his bail applications were "identical" to those mentioned in the most recent pronouncement last December. They accuse the courts of manifesting a "persistent reluctance" to accept the prosecution's objections to Fenech's bail requests without verifying whether the underlying reasons were true.

Fenech's lawyers pointed to the ECHR's ruling 18 years ago that Meinrad Calleja's fundamental rights were breached due to the time he spent in preventive custody while awaiting trial for his alleged involvement in the attempted murder of the then prime minister's personal assistant.