Court rejects George Degiorgio's request to suspend criminal proceedings in Caruana Galizia murder case

George Degiorgio, who stands accused, along with two other men of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia, is contesting the validity of wiretaps

George Degiorgio is contesting the validity of evidence obtained from wiretaps
George Degiorgio is contesting the validity of evidence obtained from wiretaps

The constitutional court has refused to grant an interim measure to a man accused of murdering journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia that would have suspended the criminal proceedings against him.

George Degiorgio, one of three men accused of assassinating the journalist, is contesting the validity of wiretaps and asked the court to suspend criminal proceedings pending the outcome of the wiretap case.

In a decision handed down at around 4.30pm on Wednesday, Mr Justice Toni Abela ruled that there did not appear to be a prima facie right to suspend proceedings.

He observed that had the complaint been made at an earlier stage of the proceedings, it would have been resolved.

Such an action must be exercised at the ideal moment to avoid hampering the momentum of other proceedings, said the judge.

The pending criminal case, after the issuing of the bill of indictment, was foreseeable and this complaint could have been raised at a much earlier stage of proceedings.

The judge also observed that only one of the three men accused of the murder had opted to contest the validity of the wiretaps.

“The other two co-accused didn’t feel the need to make a similar application. In the opinion of this court, such a request also affects the interests of the other co-accused. In the absence of a similar application, the court cannot presume that they too, wanted the criminal proceedings to stop as requested by the applicant. Therefore, in its considerations, this court cannot not take into account the interests of the other co-accused,” Abela ruled.

Earlier today, George Degiorgio’s lawyer, William Cuschieri complained that, as a defence attorney, he had no oversight of the wiretap evidence.

He also complained that the Malta Security Services Act was unconstitutional.

“The ECHR says that when an entity has absolute discretion to do what it wants, this is a breach of rights. You cannot even ask MSS questions which could potentially incriminate them. If the intercept was incorrectly made under the law, they are precluded from using it,” Cuschieri said.

He insisted that on a prima facie level there was something that was not as it should be: “I prefer to be cautious in this very serious case that potentially involves life imprisonment, it doesn’t get more serious than that. Until this case [the wiretap case] is heard well, the other cases should be suspended.”

Cuschieri denied this was a delaying tactic, adding that the alleged killer’s trial would begin under a question mark unless the wiretap case is concluded.

“You’ve arraigned me under such a serious charge and you don’t bring this evidence forward? The gravity is irreparable,” Cuschieri said.

 

Prosecution says this was last-minute attempt to delay jury

But lawyer Victoria Buttigieg from the Attorney General’s office rebutted Cuschieri’s arguments, saying it was not true that the men were arrested because of the intercepts. “There was a large amount of evidence which puts them at the scene of the crime. This is a last-minute attempt to delay the jury. An interim measure for the FBI evidence, an interim measure for call logs… we’ve been going through this for the past nine cases,” she said.

At worst, the defence could request the expunging of the evidence objected to, Buttigieg said, and not stop the criminal court because there is possibly something wrong.

“At first glance this request appears completely frivolous,” Buttigieg argued.

This was echoed by the Caruana Galizia family’s lawyer Jason Azzopardi, who said the ordinary remedy was the filing of preliminary pleas, which had been done. One of the preliminary pleas was the inadmissibility of certain evidence.

“But then you use the extraordinary remedy in asking for interim measures. It is wrong to ask the Constitutional Court for a remedy which you could easily obtain from the Criminal Court or the Court of Criminal Appeal,” Azzopardi said.

He said the assertion that the arrests happened because of the intercepts was completely wrong. “There was evidence of a different nature,” he added.

Cuschieri’s rejoinder attacked what he referred to as “indiscriminate surveillance and joining of dots.”

“In Malta, we have a law that says the MSS can do what they want and listen in to the phone calls of anyone they like. I want George Degiorgio to be given what is rightly his. If the law is invalid, we must see what can be done,” Cuschieri said.

George Degiorgio, his brother Alfred Degiorgio, and Vince Muscat stand accused of preparing, planting and detonating the car bomb that killed Caruana Galizia two years ago.

Today marks the second anniversary of her assassination just metres away from her house in Bidnija.

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