Updated | Cardona won’t pursue brothel libel after court strikes off case on defence’s request

Lawyers in tit-for-tat after no-shows for Caruana Galizia sons and minister Chris Cardona during libel proceedings • Peter Caruana Galizia says sons told by police to stay away from Malta • Economy minister's legal team shifts evidence to libel case instituted by minister's aide

Libel cases filed by economy minister Chris Cardona against the late Daphne Caruana Galizia, which have since been taken up her heirs, came to a sudden and unexpected end before Magistrate Francesco Depasquale on Thursday morning.

The proceedings were instituted by Cardona and Gerada after Caruana Galizia had claimed back in January 2017, that the pair had visited a brothel in Germany while on official government business.  Libel cases filed against the slain journalist by aide Joe Gerada were adjourned to a later date

On Thursuday, lawyer Pawlu Lia presented an application for Gerada and made reference to the oath of Matthew, Andrew and Paul Caruana Galizia, as the three men had not turned up for the sitting.  Making reference to the oath is a legal procedure in which an absent party is deemed to have admitted fault. “From day one I wanted to bring the defendant to testify, I was never allowed this opportunity,” said Lia, adding that he now wanted Caruana Galizia's sons to testify under oath.

This prompted Lawyer Joe Zammit Maempel, appearing for the Caruana Galizias, to request that the cases filed by Cardona be deemed to have been dropped on account of the fact that Cardona himself had not shown up for any of the recent hearings. “If you’re going to play these games, we can too,” said Zammit Maempel.

Zammit Maempel explained to the court that Andrew, Matthew and Paul Caruana Galizia were not in Malta, and this on the recommendation of the police, but would be filing a note in the acts of the proceedings, stating that Peter Caruana Galizia would take his sons’ place. The Mata police force later denied that they had issued the Caruana Galizias any such recommendation.

Lia countered, saying that he was informed that there was no such recommendation on the part of the police, accusing the other party of “inventing” this allegation.

“That’s why I have had two policemen behind my door for the past four years,” retorted their faither Peter Caruana Galizia, who was present in court.

In view of Zammit Maempel’s request, the court ordered that the cases filed by Cardona be struck off. 

As the sitting ended, Lia declared that he would be “assessing his position according to law after the defendant’s actions”.

Court asked to preserve call logs and SMS between Caruana Galizia and source

In a statement, the economy minister said he was not present in court because of government work commitments. The minister said the Caruana Galizias’ lawyer had taken the opportunity to request that the court “liberate the accused, in this case Daphne Caruana Galizia’s heirs, from the accusations against them.”

“In the following procedure, Magistrate Francesco Depasquale decided to cancel the cases and remove them from the list of cases it presides over,” the minister said.

He said that although his lawyer reserved his right to follow procedure according to law, “the decision taken by the Magistrate was final, and therefore the minister’s cases had to be concluded today”.

“Dr Lia however proceeded to file the application and evidence planned to be filed in all the related libel cases, in the cases instituted by the minister’s advisor, Dr Joseph Gerada. These included text messages sent between the number used by Daphne Caruana Galizia and an anonymous source.”

It went on to say that the texts clearly indicate that Caruana Galizia did not know the identity of the source and never sought to verify the identity and the content of these messages.

Additionally, in the application presented today, it is also stated that the messages from this source were sent from Malta and not from Germany, the ministry said.

“The information relayed in these messages was then used as the basis of Caruana Galizia’s published stories in which defamatory allegations were made against Minister Cardona and Dr Gerada.

“In light of this new evidence, the application filed today includes a request to the court to preserve call logs and SMS messages in relation to the communications made between the defendant and the source over the relevant period in relation to the stories published by Daphne Caruana Galizia.”

Police deny recommending Caruana Galizia sons not to visit Malta

In a statement issued this evening, the police said they were “categorically denying" instructing the Caruana Galizia brothers not to come to Malta in the wake of their mother's murder.

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