Update 3 – 12:35pm
Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech has recused herself from the case of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, and has asked for a new magistrate to be appointed to the trial.
She cited the importance of the public perception that justice is being served after the defence asked her to step down due to the fact that she was in class with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sister when they were children.
The prosecution had refuted these claims stating that due to Malta’s size, connections like this could always be made ‘if you looked hard enough’.
Update 2 – 10:25am:
The three men suspected of assassinating journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia are taking issue with the magistrate assigned to their case… on the grounds that she used to go to class with one of Caruana Galizia’s when they were children.
Before the case started, magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech declared that she used to go to class with one of Caruana Galizia’s sisters, but that their relationship was limited to greeting each other in the morning. More recently, they offered condolences to each other when Caruana Galizia and one of Frendo Dimech’s relatives died.
The three suspects – George Degiorgio (Ic-Ciniz), his brother Alfred (Il-Fulu) and Vince Muscat (Il-Kohhu) – told their legal aid lawyers that this faint connection to Caruana Galizia was enough for Frendo Dimech to recuse herself from the case. “Justice must not only be carried out but it must appear to be carried out,” legal aid lawyer Martin Fenech argued. “Every suspect has the right to be judged by a magistrate they believe is acting independently, and I’m sure we can find another magistrate who didn’t enjoy this level of closeness with the victim’s sister.”
A bemused Frendo Dimech questioned how this brief connection could impinge on her own sense of justice, while PN MP Therese Comodini Cahcia – appearing in parte civile for the Caruana Galizia family – said that the small size of Maltese society renders such connections inevitable. “If you look hard enough, I’m sure most people in this courtroom have some sort of connection with each other, and if you recuse yourself then we risk reaching a point where justice is served to no one,” she said.
However, Fenech retorted that the three suspects – who he described as “victims” – are feeling uncomfortable with Frendo Dimech’s presence. The court is currently on break to deliberate this point.
Update 1 – 10:00am
Three men suspected of assassinating journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia are in court today to listen to the evidence the police have gathered against them.
The courtroom is packed with journalists and police officers to hear the police’s case against George Degiorgio (Ic-Ciniz), his brother Alfred Degiorgio (Il-Fulu) and an accomplice Vince Muscat – who were arrested last week during a massive police raid in Marsa.
The three men appeared in court all polished up and wearing suits but without a lawyer, meaning they have to currently resort on three legal aid lawyers – namely Benjamin Valenzia, Martin Fenech and Francine Abela.
Daphne Caruana Galizia’s husband Peter, as well as her parents and two of her sisters, are also present in the court.
Police say they have electronic evidence that Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat were outside Caruana Galizia’s house in Bidnija on the afternoon of 16th October.
As soon as he saw Caruana Galizia leave the house, Alfred Degiorgio allegedly contacted his brother George who had been stationed on a cabin cruiser. George then sent a fatal SMS to an electronic device which had been planted to a bomb that had been placed inside the journalist’s car.
At the end of this stage, known as the compilation of evidence stage, magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech will rule on whether there is enough evidence for the three men to stand trial.