Court turns down Muscat request for hospitals inquiry magistrate to be recused until constitutional case is decided

NGO Repubblika’s request to intervene in the case also turned down by court

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (Photo: James Bianchi/mediatoday)
Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (Photo: James Bianchi/mediatoday)

A judge has rejected disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s request for an interim measure that would have stopped the magisterial inquiry into the Vitals Global Healthcare hospital deal.

The judge also refused Repubblika’s request to be admitted as a party to proceedings.

Madam Justice Doreen Clarke delivered the two decrees on Wednesday morning in constitutional proceedings filed by Muscat.

Muscat had filed an application last month, calling on the court to declare that the provision of the law under which the inquiry had been opened had breached Muscat’s right to a fair hearing, by creating a distinction between individuals identified as suspects in the initial stages of the inquiry and others who became suspects later, as the inquiry progressed.

He had called on the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction to order the recusal of the magistrate as an interim measure, after magistrate Vella had herself turned down Muscat’s request that she recuse herself.

Muscat had justified his request by pointing to social media comments from 2019 supporting a protest which had been uploaded by the magistrate’s father and brother. Muscat had told the court that when Vella had classified the comments as a legitimate exercise of freedom of expression, this meant that “she took their side against me".

Rule of Law NGO Repubblika had later filed an application asking to intervene in the case, pointing out that Repubblika had been the first one to call for the probe into the hospitals deal in 2019.

Handing down decisions on the requests on Wednesday morning, Madam Justice Clarke turned down Muscat’s request to hear the case with urgency. The court also refused to give an interim measure removing Vella from the case.

Lawyer Charlon Gouder is appearing for Muscat, while lawyer Jason Azzopardi is representing Repubblika.

Lawyer James D'Agostino is representing the Office of the State Advocate.