Caruana Galizia relatives tell inquiry: journalist was harassed for her work

Daphne Caruana Galizia's parents, sisters and nieces tell court of the constant harassment the murdered journalist and her family were subjected to

The second sitting of the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia's assassination is being held today
The second sitting of the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia's assassination is being held today
16:45 The sitting has now been adjourned and will continue on 27 December, when Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sons Paul and Andrew Caruana Galizia, and her sister Corinne Vella are due to give testimony Massimo Costa
16:44 Mallia asks if anyone fighting for justice should have to endure such harassment. The best protection a journalist could have is for the police to investigate her stories and prosecute the perpetrators, she tells the Board. If this had happened, Daphne would still be alive. Before stepping off the witness stand, she says that we all owe Daphne justice and failure to provide this would mean a failure for the country Massimo Costa
16:41 Turning to events which transpired after Daphne was murdered, Amanda Mallia says that people would drive past the Bidnija home of a witness to the car bombing, making sounds mimicking an explosion. Mallia says she and Daphne’s other sisters had become subjects of internet memes just for protesting against her murder Massimo Costa
16:40 Mallia tells the Board about the libel suits filed by government officials which Daphne had been facing at the time of her death. Unbenknownst to her, she was also subject to SLAPP suits in the US filed by Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, the owner of Pilatus Bank Massimo Costa
16:38 Amanda Mallia now turns to comment made by Joseph Muscat just before the 2017 elections. Mallia says the Prime Minster had said Malta was being tarnished from Bidnija. This amounted to Muscat inciting the public against a journalist who was doing her job, Mallia says. Pointing to the recent testimony given by Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the murder, Mallia says Daphne’s assassination had already been contracted at this stage Massimo Costa
16:37 Mallia, reflecting the testimony given earlier by Daphne’s mother, says that, some months before Daphne’s murder, a restaurant she had frequented was raided by the police after photos of her dining there had been uploaded to Glen Bedingfield’s blog Massimo Costa
16:34 Amanda Mallia goes on to recount how it had come to her attention that Neville Gafa had uploaded to his Facebook page a number of pictures of Daphne and her family, taken a day before she was murdered as she was going about her business in Floriana. Mallia says someone was stalking Daphne when she was out with her niece, and Gafa had no qualms about uploading the photos, which he himself might have taken Massimo Costa
16:32 More recently, before the assassination, she said there was at least one question in Parliament made about journalists having police protection. It was like the politicians were sending a message that she was unprotected, Amanda Mallia tells the Board. Massimo Costa
16:31 Mallia now speaks about the day Daphne had been murdered. She says that she was informed medical staff at Mater Dei Hospital had celebrated when it was confirmed that Caruana Galizia had died in the car bombing, as it meant she would not have to be operated upon Massimo Costa
16:30 Amanda Mallia recalls how on the eve of the election in 2013, Daphne was arrested for allegedly breaching the day of silence law, although other people had also done so. She noted it was odd that it was officers from the homicide squad that had been the ones to knock on Daphne’s door at the time Massimo Costa
16:29 Continuing her recounting, Amanda Mallia says that in 2013 Glenn Bedingfield’s blog was launched, and tasteyourownmedicine.com was taken down. Bedingfield’s blog was aimed at discrediting and vilifying Daphne and was often updated during government office hours. At the time, Bedingfield was employed by the government Massimo Costa
16:27 Turning to another instance of harassment, Amanda Mallia said businessman and Malta’s former High Commissioner in London Norman Hamilton had alleged that Daphne's father had an illegitimate child. Other incorrect rumours spread by the tasteyourownmedicine.com website included that Daphne’s sister was married to former judge Michael Mallia, who is today chairing the public inquiry board Massimo Costa
16:23 Amanda Mallia also mentions the now defunct tasteyourownmedicine.com blog, which she says had been launched after Daphne created her own blog in 2008, to vilify Daphne and her family Massimo Costa
16:20 Amanda Mallia says that when she heard about the assassination of her sister, she was "shocked but not surprised". She tells the Board that whenever she heard explosions or loud bangs, she would check Daphne's blog to make sure that she was all right Massimo Costa
16:20 Daphne must have been aware that her life was in danger, Amanda Mallia tells the court - not least after the arson attacks on Daphne’s home when the family was inside the house. Massimo Costa
16:19 Amanda Mallia, another of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sisters, takes the stand. She says that Daphne was not fearless but she was courageous. “I have no doubt that had the institutions functioned as they should, she would still be here today. I’m sure she knew it was dangerous ground but she said it was her duty to report.” Massimo Costa
16:17 Helene Asciak touches on the libel suits filed by Chris Cardona and Joe Gerada and how this affected her sister. She also recounts how she had been assaulted and harangued by people as she placed flowers at her sister’s memorial. "All the flowers you place will never bring your sister back," she recalled them as saying. Asciak ends her testimony with a call for justice Massimo Costa
16:15 Frequently overcome by emotion, Asciak goes on to speak about Brian Tonna of Nexia BT and the opaque structures which had been set up in Panama for former minister Konrad Mizzi and former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri Massimo Costa
16:14 Helene Asciak continues recounting events surrounding Daphne’s work. She tells the Board that when Speaker Anglu Farrugia had alluded to shady dealings at Labour headquarters but then went silent, Daphne had suspected that he had been paid to shut up Massimo Costa
16:12 Asciak tells the Board that Daphne had been subjected to serious harassment, in every way imaginable, by the Labour media and MPs in Parliament. She says that when politicians expose journalists to scrutiny, this is a violation of democratic norms and a tactic of totalitarian regimes Massimo Costa
16:11 Helene Asciak refers to an anonymous website - tasteyourownmedicine.com - which was created as a response to Daphne’s blog. This was later taken down and replaced by Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield’s blog, which was aimed at harassing government critics, Asciak says Massimo Costa
16:10 Megan Mallia’s testimony is over. Helene Asciak, Daphne’s sister, now takes the stand. Her voice trembling, she tells the Board that her sister’s last words to her were said less than 48 hours before the murder. “She exposed corruption at the highest levels of government. Daphne was harassed and killed for her works,” Asciak says Massimo Costa
16:08 Megan Mallia says that, since her aunt was assassinated, her family had been given no chance to grieve, having to contend daily with trolls and propaganda. She mentions something shocking someone told her: “Someone told me to dig a hole near my aunt’s grave and lie in it” Massimo Costa
16:07 Megan Mallia continues with her testimony, which is deeply personal. She details taunts and jibes which she suffered at school and in public. She tells the court of how a few months ago she had bumped into Keith Scehmbri at the airport’s departures lounge. "I always felt that if it had not been for him and his corruption my aunt would still be alive. My mother and I fell into each others arms in tears,” she says Massimo Costa
16:05 Megan Mallia now speaks of harassment she was subjected to. At school, she would be met with accusations that her mother was writing lies when it came to the Panama Papers revelations. In another incident, two men had accosted her grandfather as he was placing a bouquet and a photo at Daphne’s memorial beneath the Great Siege Monument Massimo Costa
16:03 Megan Mallia recounts how, whenever Daphne would visit her family at their home, her mother (Daphne’s sister), would walk her to her car, especially if it was dark Massimo Costa
16:02 Megan Mallia, another of Daphne’s nieces, now takes the stand. She tells the inquiry board of an incident which happened in 2016: her family and her had been taking Daphne’s dog out for a walk in Sliema, and were stopped by an officer from the animal welfare department. The officer asked whether the dog was chipped and who the owner was. When she and her family eventually answered, they had to do so in a whisper Massimo Costa
16:00 Amy Mallia’s testimony is over. She steps down, and her grandfather squeezes her hand Massimo Costa
15:59 Asked to elaborate about Neville Gafa, Amy Mallia says Gafa had uploaded her photos on his Facebook page Massimo Costa
15:58 She recounts one such threat which was directed at her by a fellow pupil at school. “In February 2018, and a school classmate told me that it would have been better if a bomb had been placed under my seat too,” Amy Mallia tells the Board. Later on that year, she recounts how she was sent an internet meme depicting Daphne's face accompanied by text reading “M’hemmx x'taghmel, ghollewa m’Alla" (There’s nothing that can be done, they blew her up) Massimo Costa
15:56 Mallia tells the Board how Daphne was continuously and viciously attacked during her life and continues to be attacked two years after her assassination. Her family, Mallia says, continues to be subject of threats Massimo Costa
15:54 Mallia speaks of the garnishee orders minister Chris Cardona and his aide, lawyer Joe Gerada, had filed following Daphne’s publication of a story alleging the two had been in a German brothel. Mallia says that she had been concerned about how her aunt would be able to live with all her accounts having been frozen as a consequence of the garnishee orders Massimo Costa
15:53 Amy Mallia tells the court of an instance of harassment she herself was subjected to. Neville Gafa, works in the Prime Minister’s office, had uploaded images of Mallia - a minor - to social media, amounting to an invasion of privacy Massimo Costa
15:51 Over the years, Mallia says she had heard rumours that she was Daphne's illegitimate daughter Massimo Costa
15:50 Mallia testifies to being accustomed to false news and rumours about her aunt. Before the 2013 elections, photoshopped images of Daphne were printed on billboards, she tells the Board Massimo Costa
15:49 Amy Mallia, Daphne Caruana Galizia's niece, takes the stand Massimo Costa
15:49 The unnamed media person has finished giving testimony and the press are allowed back in Massimo Costa
14:43 The press has been ordered out of the courtroom as the unnamed person from the media is now giving testimony Massimo Costa
14:42 Daphne’s father now turns to the 2017 car bomb which claimed his daughter’s life. At this point in time, he too breaks down. Very emotional and making an effort to speak, Michael Vella tells the inquiry that had the country’s authorities done their job on time, Daphne would still be alive today. Michael Vella's testimony ends here Massimo Costa
14:40 Michael Vella continues speaking about the situation after the 2017 general election. The PN leader’s new policy, he says, was not to speak about corruption. This had left Daphne defenceless in the face of a hostile State. State authorities, he tells the inquiry, had failed to act upon her reports of corruption Massimo Costa
14:39 He notes that, with the Nationalist Party in disarray after the 2017 election, Daphne’s line of protectino had been neutralised. People had blamed Daphne for the PN’s loss at the polls and some had called for her elimination, using the term “intajruha”, Michael Vella tells the inquiry board Massimo Costa
14:38 Michael Vella makes reference to revelations by the Daphne Project that Pilatus Bank owner and chairman Ali Sadr had filed a case against his daughter in Arizona, US, which she had not been notified of at the time of her death Massimo Costa
14:36 Michael Vella says his perception of the level of threat Daphne was subjected too became more acute as Labour came to power in 2013 and removed John Rizzo from police commissioner. Moreover, the level of threat increased further after the Panama Papers revelations, he says Massimo Costa
14:35 Successive Labour governments had been characterised by the suppression of free speech, by the denial of people’s right to know, and also through the harassment of any individual or organisation that the party perceived as getting in the way, Michael Vella says Massimo Costa
14:34 Daphne’s father, Michael Vella now takes the stand. "My daughter, Daphne, had a strong sense of duty and would never have been able to live with herself if she had not reported on the corruption in government that she had been aware of,” Michael says Massimo Costa
14:33 Rose Vella says that, had the corruption her daughter reported on been immediately acted upon, she would still be alive today Massimo Costa
14:29 Rose Vella says that on 14 October, 2017 - two days before she was murdered - Daphne had visited her parents and told them she would bring a present that she had left behind. “She appeared unusually thoughtful,” Rose says. This had made her concerned that her daughter could be the victim of a violent attack, she recalls. At this point in her testimony, Rose is overcome by emotions and breaks down in tears Massimo Costa
14:26 “I was always worried and afraid because her home was in an isolated area. I was afraid she could be accosted or assaulted,” Rose Vella tells the inquiry Massimo Costa
14:25 Rose Vella tells the inquiry that at one point she had suffered a stroke. The doctor - who Rose wasn't aware knew that she was Daphne Caruana Galizia's mother - had unexpectedly told her that the stroke had "probably happened because of Daphne" Massimo Costa
14:23 In another incident, Rose Vella says, Daphne Caruana Galizia had been photographed at a restaurant and the photo had been uploaded on Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield's blog Massimo Costa
14:20 Rose Vella continues recounting previous incidents. On another occasion, she says, whilst she was in hospital and Daphne was visiting her, her (Daphne’s) car had been blocked and a false police report had been filed that she had hit the blocking car and attacked its driver Massimo Costa
14:18 Rose and Michael Vella kiss the cross. Rose Vella reads out a pre-written statement. She says that, during the previous legislature, a former Labour MP, Luciano Busuttil, had asked in Parliament if any resident of Bidnija was under police protection - the answer was that there was nobody. Daphne had told her mother that this had been done to show that nobody was protecting her Massimo Costa
14:15 In the meantime, Caruana Galizia's parents will testify. They walk up to the podium together Massimo Costa
14:12 The Board, after hearing Comodini Cachia, upholds the request and authorises the hearing of the witness behind closed doors. It also orders that the witness not be named or identified Massimo Costa
14:11 The judges are discussing the question of the media person’s testimony amongst themselves. Lawyer Andrew Borg Cardona is appearing together with Comodini Cachia Massimo Costa
14:08 Therese Comodini Cachia, one of the lawyers for the Caruana Galizia, informs the court that there was a person from the media who had relevant information who will be testifying today. Comodini Cachia asks that this testimony be heard behind closed doors to protect the person and to keep their information private. The person in question approached the family after the last sitting Massimo Costa
14:06 The board has upheld a request by the lawyers for the Caruana Galizia family for the TAP3 mobile network files - related to Economy Minister Chris Cardona’s whereabouts when Daphne Caruana Galizia had alleged that he was in a brothel in Germany while on government business - to be preserved in the case. The TAP3 files will remain in the board's custody, however Massimo Costa
14:03 The judges have emerged from chambers. The sitting is now in progress Massimo Costa
13:57 Caruana Galizia's parents Michael and Rose Vella are expected to testify, along with her sisters Corinne Vella, Mandy Mallia and Helene Axiaq Massimo Costa
13:55 Good afternoon. The public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia is continuing in court today. This is the inquiry's second public sitting Massimo Costa

The public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination continued this afternoon, with the family of the murdered journalist testifying on the harassment she and they were subjected to.

Caruana Galizia's parents, Rose and Michael Vella, two of her sisters, Helene Asciak and Amanda Mallia, and her nieces Megan Mallia and Amy Mallia took the stand.

They told the Board on various events, both before and after the murder, which constituted harassment from government officials and others.

The witnesses recounted how, after the 2013 election and following the Panama Papers revelations in 2016, the threats against Caruana Galizia had intensified. Moreover, with the PN in disarray after its massive loss at the 2017 election, this line of defence had also disappeared, making the situation worse for her.

The Board also decided to uphold a request, made by the Caruana Galizia's family lawyers in the previous sitting, to preserve the TAP3 mobile network data concerning Economy Minister Chris Cardona's location at the time Daphne Caruana Galizia had alleged he was at a German brothel while on government duty.

The sitting was adjourned and will continue on 27 December, when Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sons Paul and Andrew Caruana Galizia, and her sister Corinne Vella are due to give testimony

The inquiry’s first sitting, held last week, saw one of the murdered journalist’s sons, Matthew Caruana Galizia, and her widower, Peter Caruana Galizia, take the witness stand.

Former judge Michael Mallia is chairing the inquiry board, while Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro are the board’s other two members.

The inquiry's terms of reference stipulate that it must be concluded within nine months. 

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