Accused in Caruana Galizia murder claims breach of fair trial over missing laptop

Accused in murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia claims breach of fair trial over investigators’ inability to retrieve journalist’s laptop

Alfred Degiorgio (left) with accused Vincent Muscat 'il-Kohhu' and second from right, George Degiorgio 'ic-Ciniz'
Alfred Degiorgio (left) with accused Vincent Muscat 'il-Kohhu' and second from right, George Degiorgio 'ic-Ciniz'

Alfred Degiorgio “il-Fulu” has filed Constitutional proceedings claiming a breach of fair trial over claims that the family of murdered journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia did not hand over a laptop to investigators.

Lawyer William Cuschieri, acting on behalf of Degiorgio – one of the three accused in the assassination of Caruana Galizia – filed two separate applications to the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction this morning.

In the first, he claims that investigating officials had not analysed Caruana Galizia’s laptop for clues about the murder because the family are refusing to hand it over to the police.

Degiorgio’s lawyer said it was important that the laptop is analysed as it “could contain sensitive information about third parties responsible for this murder.”

He said police were failing in their obligation and responsibility to collect all evidence both for and against the accused, accusing the Commissioner of Police of “having done nothing and doing nothing currently” to obtain the laptop.

Likewise he accused the Attorney General of “doing nothing to ensure that the evidence exhibited by him and the commissioner of Police is whole and complete and not partial and selective.”

He also said the Court of Magistrates as a court of criminal inquiry had done nothing to action an application by investigator Police Inspector Keith Arnaud, in which he claims that Caruana Galizia’s laptop had not been found and was thought to be in the possession of her family.

“Strangely and unfortunately, it appears that the other parties or some of them are letting the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia dictate what evidence is gathered,” Cuschieri said, pointing out that the murdered journalist’s sister had publicly stated that the laptop was in her possession and that she wasn’t going to pass it on to the Commissioner of Police; as well as the fact that one of Caruana Galizia’s sons had publicly declared that he would “burn my mother’s laptop in front of the police, if I knew where it was.”

He said the failure of the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General in permitting evidence to remain in the hands of the Caruana Galizia family who could alter or destroy it, breached Degiorgio’s fundamental human right to a fair trial.

The application requests that the court declare an ongoing breach of human rights and order the defendants to take all steps necessary to obtain and analyse the laptop, computer devices and server used by Caruana Galizia.

Court expert

The second court application filed by Degiorgio today states that the continued presence of court-appointed expert Martin Bajada breached his fundamental right to a fair trial.

Bajada had been appointed to assist in the investigation in October 2017 and confirmed in the role four months later.

Bajada is believed to have worked with the FBI to examine mobile telephony and data traffic records relating to the case.

In a previous application, Degiorgio had already challenged Bajada’s suitability on the basis of a 1993 conviction by a UK court when Bajada had been working for Air Malta, but this argument had not been upheld by judge Silvio Meli. The 25-year-old conviction notwithstanding, Bajada still enjoys the trust of members of the judiciary, who regularly appoint him to carry out tasks.

This time the lawyer argued that the court expert’s “criminal past” undermined the trust in the proceedings and violated the applicant’s right to a fair trial, said the lawyer, arguing that “justice must not only be done but be seen to be done.”

He opposed the fact that Bajada was given the opportunity to reply when he is not a party to the Constitutional case.

The ongoing battle to remove the expert had rendered him an adversary and not an impartial witness, argued the lawyer, and created “serious doubts” as to the integrity of his work and that carried out by the FBI in collaboration with him.

Cuschieri asked the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction to declare the fact that FBI officials worked with Bajada breached Degiorgio’s right to a fair trial, which would be further breached were the FBI agents to testify in the proceedings and thus, to prevent this from happening.