Updated | Busuttil won’t testify in Keith Schembri libel until shown copy of his own speech

Simon Busuttil's laywer insists libel suit doesn't specify why Keith Schembri felt libelled by PN leader's speech

Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil has asked not to testify about a speech, the subject of a libel case filed against him by OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, before he is given a copy of it.

Lawyer Peter Fenech said his client - Simon Busuttil - wanted to wait until he is given a copy of his speech before appearing in court.

Busuttil this afternoon told parliament that Schembri had not stated on what basis he had been sued for libel. “How can I testify in court if I don’t know what the accusation against me is?” Busuttil said.

“You know exactly why Schembri has sued you… you have spent months calling him corrupt,” Justice Minister Owen Bonnici replied.

Busuttil said that Schembri had not submitted the speech in question, and the court has now upheld the request. The case was deferred, allowing Busuttil time to go through the speech.

Busuttil accused Schembri of being involved in acts of corruption, prompting the Prime Minister’s chief of staff to sue for libel. The accusation was made when it emerged that Schembri held a New Zealand trust and an attached company in Panama.

Busuttil’s lawyer asked the court to allow his client time to prepare his testimony about the allegations he had made about Schembri.

Lawyer Pawlu Lia, appearing for Schembri, argued that Simon Busuttil was not credible when he said that he was unaware of the subject of the case or what he had said in his speech.

Fenech objected to the submission, insisting that Busuttil had not said the words that were being attributed to him.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale decreed that the opposition leader must be given a copy of the March 6th speech before testifying, ordering Lia to exhibit a copy.

Questioned by the press, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat insisted that Busuttil “knows exactly” what he said.

“[The Panama Papers revelations] have hurt the government and we have taken action; Busuttil has made a lot of insinuations but makes up excuses when asked to testify... It’s not on.”

On Twitter, Schembri said he “expected nothing better” from Busuttil.