[WATCH] Daphne Caruana Galizia murder: Dramatic turn of events as second magistrate withdraws from case

Magistrate Charmaine Galea is the second magistrate to recuse herself from the case against George Degiorgio (ic-Ciniz), Alfred Degiorgio (il-Fulu) and Vincent Muscat (il-Kohhu), accused of murdering journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

(Photo: James Bianchi/Media Today)
(Photo: James Bianchi/Media Today)
(Photo: James Bianchi/Media Today)
(Photo: James Bianchi/Media Today)
(Photo: James Bianchi/Media Today)
(Photo: James Bianchi/Media Today)
(Photo: James Bianchi/Media Today)
(Photo: James Bianchi/Media Today)
(Photo: James Bianchi/Media Today)
(Photo: James Bianchi/Media Today)
Suspects leaving court under heavy escort

The compilation of evidence against three men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia was called off for a second time this morning after Magistrate Charmaine Galea withdrew from the case.

George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vincent Muscat appeared in front of the magistrate this morning in what had to be the start of the compilation of evidence against them by the prosecution.

However, the magistrate recused herself after she indicated that the slain journalist had been critical of her appointment back in 2013. Magistrate Galea had also represented MaltaToday in a libel case against Caruana Galizia at the start of her legal career. Galea is the second magistrate in four days to withdraw from the compilation of evidence.

Galea was appointed magistrate last Thursday, replacing Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, who recused herself after doubts about her impartiality, based on her familiarity with Caruana Galizia's sister, were raised by the accused.

Frendo Dimech was meant to preside over the compilation of evidence, which is a pre-trial stage where the police present the evidence they have against the accused. The magistrate would then decide whether there was enough evidence for the men to stand trial.

It was the defence that raised doubts on the magistrate's impartiality again. The dramatic turn of events plays into the hands of the accused since the compilation of evidence has to start within 30 days of charges being filed.

Lawyer Jason Azzopardi had pointed this out to the magistrate, saying the court "should not allow itself to be manipulated by those who wish to evade the course of Justice. The release of the accused, necessitated by senseless delays, when the compilation of evidence has not even begun would be an indescribable insult to the administration of true Justice, and would only serve for the three persons accused with this infamous crime to use the court to evade the law."

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The Degiorgio brothers and Muscat were arrested during a massive police and army raid on their quarters in the Menqa area of Marsa on 4 December.

Seven other men arrested during the raid have since been released on police bail.

09:58 The courtroom proceedings have ended. Thank you for following. Kurt Sansone
09:57 Jason Azzopardi expresses indignation at the turn of events: "This is uncharted, unprecedented territory. The defence's endgame was to delay the granting of the decree of prima facie for longer than the period of 30 days which the law allows it." Kurt Sansone
09:41 The court referred to ample jurisprudence mentioned in the preceding magistrate's decree which said that doubts as to the magistrate's impartiality could be fatal to the course of justice. The court recused itself for the same reasons. Matthew Agius
09:38 A decree was given: Matthew Agius
09:36 The accused men sit in the dock in silence, heads bowed and hands clasped. Their faces betray no emotion. Matthew Agius
09:34 The magistrate has called for complete silence in the courtroom, as she compiles her decree on the matter. Matthew Agius
09:29 Azzopardi warned that the seriousness of the subject was being trivialised. The victim had never personally criticised the magistrate. The criticism was on the nomination, never on a personal or professional basis. For the avoidance of doubt, Azzopardi again renounced any right to object to the sitting magistrate. Matthew Agius
09:27 Fenech said that he feared that the insult to the magistrate could affect her impartiality. Matthew Agius
09:26 Azzopardi retorted that even if, theoretically the prosecution had grounds to object it had not. He demanded that the defence say what it is basing its objection on, without putting it on the prosecution. Matthew Agius
09:24 Fenech said the pressure on the judiciary is an injustice in itself by not allowing them to work in peace. The court should feel free to recuse itself. Matthew Agius
09:22 Lawyer Martin Fenech replied, saying that every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty and objected to certain points in Azzopardi's statement where he claimed that this court could not allow itself to be manipulated and that it would be a perversion of justice for the accused to object again to the sitting magistrate. Matthew Agius
09:19 The Constitutional Court had ruled that if the recusal would cause irreparable damage to justice, then the judge or magistrate cannot recuse himself. The recusal of this magistrate would cause irreparable harm to the process of justice and went against the spirit and letter of the law, Azzopardi said. Matthew Agius
09:18 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi told the court that the arrest will lapse in 20 months under 575(6)(a)(iii) of the Criminal Code and that the accused know that in under 30 days the time for the compilaiton of evidence will also lapse. The Parte Civile expressed its anger at the "unprecedented delays". He asked the court "not to allow itself to be manipulated by those who which to evade justice." The only people who would have grounds to object is the family, the accused have no reason to object to the sitting magistrate. He declared that even if in theory there is a ground for requesting a recusal it was divesting itself of it. Matthew Agius
09:14 Assistant AG Philip Galea Farrugia said the prosecution had no objection to the magistrate continuing to hear the case Matthew Agius
09:13 Martin Fenech said that if the court felt uncomfortable and unable to continue hearing the case, it would not object to the court recusing itself. Matthew Agius
09:12 The court declared that when she had been in private practise, she had appeared against the victim and had been criticised by her Matthew Agius
09:10 The accused have entered the courtroom. Seated directly behind them are three armed police officers in bulletproof vests Matthew Agius
09:05 Lawyers Martin Fenech, Benjamin Valenzia, Fransina Abela and Marc Sant are defence counsel to the accused. Sitting opposite them, on the prosecution side, are Inspector Keith Arnaud, Inspector Kurt Zahra, deputy AG Philip Galea Farrugia and parte civile lawyer Jason Azzopardi, Therese Commodini Cachia and Eve Borg Costanzi Matthew Agius
09:01 The courtroom is beginning to fill as lawyers, family members and prosecutors make their way to the courtroom. Matthew Agius
08:53 Good morning. Stay with us on MaltaToday.com.mt as we live-blog today's compilation of evidence in the Daphne Caruana Galizia case. Matthew Vella

Who are the accused

  • George Degiorgio 55, unemployed, lives in St Paul's Bay, known as Ic-Ciniz
  • Alfred Degiorgio, 53, unemployed lives in St Paul's Bay, known as il-Fulu
  • Vincent Muscat, 55, unemployed lives in Msida, known as il-Kohhu

 

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