Updated | Lawyers tell Busuttil off and PN replies: we will seek judge’s recusal

The Chamber of Advocates has urged PN leader Simon Busuttil to retract comments made about Judge Antonio Mizzi • PN replies: ‘It’s a fact that he is married to a Labour MEP and Simon Busuttil will ask for his recusal’

PN leader Simon Busuttil seeks Judge Antonio Mizzi's recusal
PN leader Simon Busuttil seeks Judge Antonio Mizzi's recusal

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil will be seeking the recusal of Judge Antonio Mizzi, who is hearing the appeal filed by seven men against a decision acceding to Busuttil’s request to investigate the Panama Papers revelations.

The decision follows Busuttil's request asking the same Judge to treat the appeals as urgent, and made after the Chamber of Advocates told the PN leader off for comments made against the Judge. Busuttil has questioned Antonio Mizzi’s impartiality owing to the fact that he is married to Labour MEP, Marlene Mizzi.

The Chamber of Advocates this morning called for discretion when referring to members of the judiciary, arguing that it deemed Busuttil’s comments “tarnishing”.

The Chamber insisted that said the judiciary should be allowed to carry out its duties in peace, and without pressure.

“[Busuttil’s] comments tarnish the independence and the impartiality of the mentioned judge and of the judiciary in general,” the lawyers said.

“How can justice prevail if the wife of the judge is a Labour MEP?” Busuttil asked on Sunday morning.

Judge Mizzi, who was the judge on duty when the appeals were filed before the Criminal Court, is facing undue pressure by the PN leader, the Chamber of Advocates argued.

“The Opposition leader should use legal means to address any doubt he may have on the independence or impartiality of any particular member of the judiciary, but it is certainly inappropriate for him to speak in this way,” the Chamber said, calling on Busuttil to retract his allegations.

But Busuttil, instead of retracting, proceeded to announce his intention to ask the Judge to recuse himself.

In a statement, the PN said it respected the judiciary and – because it respected the judiciary – it is seeking the judge’s recusal.

The appeals in question, before the Criminal Court, were filed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, chief of staff Keith Schembri, tourism minister Konrad Mizzi, Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, Kasco Group managing manager Malcolm Scerri and former Allied Newspapers managing director, Adrian Hillman.  The appeals protest a decision by Magistrate Ian Farrugia who ruled that a magisterial inquiry into money laundering allegations should be held. He also gave the interested parties 48 hours to appeal his decision, before the Criminal Court. The appeals were filed the following morning.

The PN insisted that it was natural that it would ask for the Judge’s recusal: “He is married to Labout MEP Marlene Mizzi and justice needs to be seen being done.”

Last week, Busuttil also filed two urgent court applications asking the Criminal Court to hear the appeals without delay.

In the two separate court applications late last week, he requested Mizzi to treat the appeals as urgent and to hold a public hearing as soon as possible so as to allow Busuttil to raise a preliminary plea.

Lawyer and PN MP Jason Azzopardi signed the court applications.

Shameful behaviour by Busuttil - PL 

In a statement, the Labour Party (PL) said that Busuttil’s attacks on the judiciary were shameful and that he was only doing so because he had his back to the wall in trying to deflect attention from his role in the PN’s “massive electoral loss”.

“His attacks on the judiciary and its members have cause the Chamber of Advocates to ask him to retract his statement,” said the Labour Party.

Rather than take back what he said, the PL said Busuttil had continued to attacked members of the judiciary “because he believed he could say and do whatever he wished to”.

It added that this was not the first time that Busuttil had asked for a magistrate to be recused, adding that the same request had been made in a case shadow minister Jason Azzopardi was involved in.

“On the other hand, the Labour Party, irrespective of whether it agrees with the court’s decision, respected them, because this is what responsibility and respect towards the country’s institutions entailed,” it said.  

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