Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia has accused lawyers representing Yorgen Fenech of making false declarations in an attempt to influence the choice of judge who will preside over their client’s murder trial.
Fenech was indicted for his role in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia earlier this month. Judge Aaron Bugeja was originally assigned the case, however he opted to abstain given that he had led the Egrant inquiry.
Judge Edwina Grima was subsequently selected by the Chief Justice to preside over the trial.
However, last week Fenech submitted a request for the judge to abstain from presiding over Fenech’s trial, arguing that this could pose problems further down the line since Grima is the most senior judge and would sit on the Court of Criminal of Appeal.
In a decree handed down today, the judge rejected the appeal for her abstention, noting that the law only allows the defence to request the recusal of a member of the judiciary.
“Abstaining is the judge’s prerogative and not of the parties,” the judge said.
Arguing against Fenech’s request, Galea Farrugia noted that there was “absolutely no justification” for it at law, describing it simply as an attempt at forum shopping by the defence.
Moreover, he pointed out that the request dealt with a potential scenario emerging in the case of an appeal.
“It isn’t opportune, nor is the Attorney General’s office presumptuous enough, to interfere with a decision taken by the Chief Justice and the President of the Republic about the composition of this court,” Galea Farrugia noted.
He also accused Fenech’s defence team of attempting to mislead the court by claiming that the Attorney General had participated in the selection of the judge.
“Contrary to what is being alleged by the applicant, the Attorney General did not participate in the choice of the judge… The recommendation was made by the Chief Justice as is required at law and the Attorney General only became involved after the selection and only for the purpose of legal vetting of the document passing the recommendation from the chief justice to the minister of justice.”
He also denied there having been any consultation with the parte civile lawyers in the case prior to the judges selection.
“It is shameful for the accused to be deliberately and consciously making false declarations with the aim of stultifying the course of justice.”
Galea Farrugia added that Fenech’s claims that the judge had been hand-picked by the prosecution was ironic given that it was clear that it was the defence that was attempting to choose the judge it wanted to preside over the trial.
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