Daphne Caruana Galizia’s relatives will sit across Yorgen Fenech in court on her '58th birthday'

Daphne Caruana Galizia’s niece Amy Mallia gives poignant speech at Valletta vigil marking 58 months since the journalist’s assassination

A vigil to commemorate Daphne Caruana Galizia has been held every month on the 16th for the past five years, to mark the day she was assassinated
A vigil to commemorate Daphne Caruana Galizia has been held every month on the 16th for the past five years, to mark the day she was assassinated

Daphne Caruana Galizia would be celebrating her 58th birthday on 26 August but instead, relatives will be in court, metres away from the man accused of masterminding her murder.

This harsh reality was highlighted by her niece, Amy Mallia, in this evening’s vigil in Valletta, which marked the 58th month since the assassination.

“It would be Daphne’s 58th birthday on the 26th of August. But we won’t be celebrating Daphne’s birthday with her that day. Some of us will instead be sitting in court facing one of the men charged with her brutal murder… We can’t celebrate with Daphne. We can only celebrate her,” Mallia said in a short but powerful speech.

She was referring to the next sitting in front of Judge Edwina Grima, who is hearing the preliminary pleas in the case against Yorgen Fenech, accused of masterminding the assassination in 2017.

Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bomb explosion just metres away from her house in Bidnija on 16 October 2017.

Fenech was arrested two years’ later while trying to leave Malta on his yacht and charged with masterminding the murder by asking his trusted driver, Melvin Theuma to procure the services of hitmen to eliminate the journalist. Fenech is suspected of having financed the operation.

Three hitmen were arrested in December 2017 and charged with carrying out the murder. 

One of the hitmen, Vince Muscat, known as il-Koħħu, last year pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 15 years in prison after a plea bargain.

The case against two other hitmen, brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, continues and is approaching its final stages.

Another two men, Robert Agius, known as Tal-Maksar, and Jamie Vella, are also charged with supplying the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia.

Theuma had been given a presidential pardon to tell all in 2019, having supplied investigators with voice recordings of conversations he had with Fenech in which they discussed the aftermath of the murder.

Vigil marks 58 months since assassination

Every 16th of the month a vigil is held in Valletta at the foot of the Great Siege monument to commemorate Caruana Galizia.

In her speech this evening, Caruana Galizia’s niece recalled how relatives cannot even remember Daphne’s birthday in 2017 happily. “Around the time, she was sitting on her sofa at home opening the birthday presents we had given her – she was being watched from across the valley by alleged hitmen who were planning to kill her,” Amy Mallia said with reference to court testimony that showed how the hitmen had spent a summer snooping around to find the best place and time to hit Daphne.

Mallia called for more sensitivity to the words used to describe the people charged with her aunt’s murder.

“It is scary that anyone allegedly involved in the assassination of a journalist is also still referred to as a ‘businessman’ or a ‘business mogul’, rather than as a ‘murder suspect’, because after all, that is exactly what they are,” she said, adding that “nobody should normalise murder, nor should murder be trivialised”.

She then upped the ante on the myriad business interests owned by some of those accused of murdering her aunt or linked to alleged corruption that Caruana Galizia had exposed.

“By working with or for companies owned by these sorts of people, or by voluntarily giving them your custom – whether by just working at a call centre of theirs or simply buying a coffee from one of the establishments they co-own – you are indirectly helping to fund a whole chain of corruption and playing a part in the threat to democracy and to society as a whole,” she said, hinting however, that her viewpoint was coloured by the grim experience of having had to sit in court, “mere inches” from several men accused of playing a part in her aunt’s horrific assassination.

“I have witnessed my admirable and stoic grandparents and cousins sitting mere inches from their daughter’s and mother’s alleged murderers, along with other close family members of mine and Daphne’s. No person should ever have to endure that, especially since nobody should ever be assassinated in the first place. It’s a position no one should ever be in,” Mallia said.

She ended with a call for justice to prevail. “58 months have elapsed since Daphne’s assassination. 58 months of no justice for Daphne. Full justice for Daphne must be served. And it must be served in the lifetime of those Daphne left behind. Daphne herself deserves no less.”

The vigil organised by rule of law NGO Repubblika was also addressed by Alessandra Dee Crespo, Repubblika Vice President, Kristina Chetcuti, a columnist and activist, Miriam Galea, an activist and cartoonist, and Andre Delicata, an activist and writer.