Busuttil asked to prove judge's non-recusal violates right to fair hearing

Judge Joseph Zammit McKeon, presiding over continuation of constitutional court case, requests Busuttil to prove judge Antonio Mizzi's decision to keep hearing Panama appeals case would make ex-PN leader a 'victim'
 

Ex-Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil has been asked by the court to provide documentary evidence to prove his claim that judge Antonio Mizzi's decision not to recuse himself in the Panama appeals case would violate Busuttil's right to a fair hearing, and consequently make him a 'victim'.

This was laid down by judge Joseph Zammit McKeon this morning, as the constitutional court case instituted by Busuttil against the Attorney General, which was filed because the former-PN leader objected to Mizzi's decision to carry on hearing the Panama appeals case despite being married to Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi, continued.

The court had previously decided that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri and tourism minister Konrad Mizzi, together with businessmen Brian Tonna and Karl Cini of Nexia BT, Malcolm Scerri and Adrian Hillman - all of which who had filed an appeal from a magistrate's finding of grounds to launch an investigation linked to the Panama Papers - would join in the suit instituted by Busuttil against the AG.

Only Hillman was present during today's sitting, with the rest of the seven being represented by their lawyers.

Zammit McKeon declared that all legal or merit-based pleased regarding the case, together with Busuttil's claims, would be decided on in a single judgement, adding that he would not allow any unnecessary arguments between the parties involved.

He also declared that Busuttil, through his lawyer Jason Azzopardi, had to submit within one week the evidence demonstrating why Mizzi's decision to continue to preside over the Panama appeals case would cause Busuttil to suffer a breach of his right to a fair hearing due to the judge's marital relationship with Marlene Mizzi.

Pawlu Lia, lawyer to the Prime Minister, argued that Busuttil was previously failed 'to get in through the door or window' and was now resorting to getting in through court as 'our democratic institutions continue to be broken down'.

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Muscat, Mizzi and five others to be defendants in Busuttil Constitutional case

Today's sitting was another step in the process which had been started when Busuttil called upon the court to launch an investigation into a number of high profile Maltese figures mentioned in the Panama Papers leak.

Magistrate Ian Farrugia, presiding over the case, had decreed that the prerequisites for an inquiry had been met, and gave the green light for a magisterial inquiry to establish whether money-laundering laws had been broken by government officials opening offshore companies in Panama.

The seven subjects of the inquiry however each filed separate appeals to this decision, which lengthened the process significantly.

The appeals were assigned to be heard by judge Mizzi, which was the catalyst for Busuttil to challenge the judge's suitability to hear the case on the fact that the judge's wife had publicly expressed an opinion on the Panama Papers scandal.

Mizzi refused to step aside, leading Busuttil to claim his right to a fair hearing had been breached, and thus starting the constitutional court case and requesting the appointing of a new judge to hear the appeals case.

The case is due to continue next week.

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