Judge slams ‘manipulative orchestration by the media’ ahead of first hearing in Caruana Galizia murder trial

Silvio Meli urged the two parties to find an amicable solution, stressing that the case did not only involve the interests of the parties, but also of society at large

Deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta (right) with Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar
Deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta (right) with Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar

Judge Silvio Meli has hit out at legal advice given to the family of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, which was released to the media last week, insisting that it amounted to an attempt at influencing the court.

Meli was speaking during the first hearing of a constitutional case instituted by the late journalist’s family, in which they are demanding that Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta be removed from the Caruana Galizia murder investigation since he is married to Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana, in addition to sitting on the board of directors of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU).

The Caruana Galizia family has said that Valletta involvement meant the investigation could never be impartial, given Caruana Galizia had written extensively about the FIAU, and the occasionally the Gozo minister.

“This is a delicate case,” Meli said in court. “I demand the highest standards of advocacy. We must respect everyone because everyone is hurt.”

Pointing out that the case was harming the country, Meli said that he too had been subject to criticism and asked both parties to declare whether they had any problems with him hearing the case

Lawyer Victoria Buttigieg, appearing for Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar and Deputy Commissioner Silvio Valletta, as well as Jason Azzopardi, Therese Comodini Cachia and Eve Borg Costanzi, appearing got the Caruana Galizia family, all declared they had no objection.

Referring to the published legal opinion by a group of British lawyers, the court insisted that it amounted to a “manipulative orchestration by the media”, intended to influence the court just before the start of the case.

“Malta is a sovereign state and a member of the European Union,” declared the court, adding that such maneuvers “undermined the rule of law by constituting an attack upon the independence and impartiality of the judiciary which lies at the heart of the sovereignty of law”.

Furthermore, the court urged both parties to discuss a possible amicable solution before proceedings reached the evidence stage, pointing out that the case not only involved the two parties, but was also important to society at large.

This, he said, would send the message that the country’s institutions truly applied the rule of law and were looking out for the good of the nation.

Azzopardi, speaking on behalf of the family, insisted that the case could be settled relatively quickly as there was not much to be considered. “It’s either one way or the other.”

The case was adjourned to December 20.

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