Yorgen Fenech has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to assassinate journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Fenech was prosecuted this evening, ten days after he was arrested while trying to escape Malta, and the courtroom was packed with journalists, as well as Caruana Galizia’s relatives.
The sitting was a short one, with the charges against Fenech read out and prosecuting inspector Keith Arnaud requesting the court to freeze his assets, a request that magistrate Audrey Demicoli accepted.
Arnaud gave a brief explanation of Fenech’s arrest on 20th November, confirming that his movements were being tracked and that he was intercepted after he left Portomaso marina on his yacht.
At one point, Fenech’s lawyer Caruana Curran asked the prosecuting whether Keith Schembri featured in the investigation, and Arnaud said he did.
Fenech didn’t request bail and was soon escorted out of the courtroom by thee police officers, none of whom were armed.
Blow-by-blow live blog below:
8:21pm: Court has adjourned and Fenech has left the room. He is not wearing handcuffs. Only one uniformed police officer and two non-uniformed police officers are accompanying him. None of them are armed, in sharp contrast with the court cases against suspected murder suspects George and Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat.
8:20pm: Fenech is wearing a black suit and a light grey tie and is slouching in his seat with his hands between his thighs.
8:19pm: The prosecution is presenting Fenech’s passport to the magistrate.
8:18pm: Fenech’s lawyers confirm they aren’t requesting bail for their client but are asking for an explanation about the police’s request to freeze his assets.
Arnaud: “We’re not asking for confiscation just freezing so that we can take stock and discuss.”
The court has accepted the prosecution’s request.
8:17pm: During Arnaud’s explanation as to why the investigation required several police bails, Fenech’s lawyer Caruana Curran asks him whether Keith Schembri featured in the investigation. Arnaud said yes.
8:14pm: Arnaud is now explaining the circumstances of Fenech’s arrest on 20th November. He confirmed Fenech’s movements were being surveyed and when he left Portomaso marina on his yacht, he was soon intercepted.
8:13pm: Fenech is asked for his personal details. He confirms he is pleading not guilty.
8:07pm: Fenech’s lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran is sitting by his side, in front of magistrate Audrey Demicoli. As expected, the courtroom is packed with press.
8:05pm: Fenech is sitting in the court room with his hands crossed. Sitting behind him are Caruana Galizia’s brothers, sisters and parents.
Daphne Caruana Galizia’s husband Peter is standing with lawyers on prosecution side together with PN MPs Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia, who are acting parte civile.
7:55pm: Yorgen Fenech is being charged in court with the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, ten days after he was arrested while trying to flee Malta. During his arrest, Fenech had implicated the Prime Minister’s now-former chief of staff Keith Schembri, who was arrested but later released.
Fenech requested a pardon in return for exposing Schembri but this was shot down by Cabinet. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat also warned that Fenech tried to blackmail him to recommend a pardon by claiming that he and the Prime Minister shared two telephone calls a few months ago, something Muscat denies.