Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi libel cases deferred after court accepts to postpone their testimony

Lawyers representing Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi requested that their testimony in libel proceedings they opened against Simon Busuttil and Daphne Caruana Galizia, be put off until they have testified in pending magisterial inquiries into related cases

Konrad Mizzi (left) and Keith Schembri
Konrad Mizzi (left) and Keith Schembri

Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi will not be testifying, for the time being, in libel proceedings they instituted against former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil and the late Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The court this morning accepted the request filed by Schembri, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, and Mizzi, the Tourism Minister, to postpone their testimony until they first testify in three magisterial inquiries requested by Busuttil into allegations of wrongdoing by the pair.

Schembri was due to give his testimony before Magistrate Francesco Depasquale this morning.

However, Schembri’s lawyer, Edward Gatt, requested a deferral of the case on the basis that Schembri had still not testified in three ongoing magisterial inquiries before magistrates Natasha Galea Sciberras and Josette Demicoli, and another before Judge Antonio Mizzi.

Gatt argued that given the merits of the three inquiries were directly linked to the merits of the libel case, libel proceedings should be delayed not to impinge on Schembri’s right to a fair trial.

Lawyer Peter Fenech, appearing for Busuttil, noted that every inquiry was heard behind closed doors, and that for this reason, the former Nationalist Party leader could not know the contents of Schembri’s testimony, or indeed at what stage the inquiry was at.

He added that there could be no outcome from the inquiry that would prejudice the libel proceedings, which he said were ultimately instituted by Schembri himself. 

Fenech said that in the interest of justice being done, the cases should be allowed to proceed as quickly as possible.

“I don’t see how this delay in the cross-examination will impede on the inquiry. It will only delay these proceedings,” he said, adding that it was not right for the case to be left pending because of an inquiry that the court had no control over.

Gatt insisted that the proceedings had been instituted by Schembri and that he had every intention of winning the case but stressed that he needed to safeguard his client’s rights. 

Depasquale put the case off until the 8 October.

Referring to the court’s decision, lawyer Pawlu Lia, who is representing Schembri and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in separate libel proceedings against Caruana Galizia, requested that the cases also be put off pending the court decision on the request made in the previous case. 

The same request was made by Aaron Mifsud Bonnci, appearing for Konrad Mizzi in libel proceedings against Caruana Galizia. 

Mifsud Bonnici said he had taken note of the request made by Gatt and said that Mizzi was also waiting to testify in the inquiry before Judge Antonio Mizzi. 

Lawyer Joe Zammit Maempel, appearing for the Caruana Galizia family, asked whether Mizzi was being investigated criminally, or whether he was just a witness, arguing that if this was the case, there was no reason for the case to be put off. 

Zammit Maempel said he was opposing the request, adding that Mizzi could not answer any questions he felt incriminated him, if the court felt he was justified in doing so. 

Mifsud Bonnici stressed that the court needed to ensure that it did not impinge on anyone’s rights and that it should grant Mizzi the same right it had granted those before him. 

The case was also put off until 15 October.

Meanwhile, Busuttil and Schembri took to Twitter to give their 'public' version of what happened in court this morning.

Simon Busuttil's sarcastic 'surprise'
Simon Busuttil's sarcastic 'surprise'
Keith Schembri's explainer
Keith Schembri's explainer