Magistrate Nadine Lia has recused herself in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, the Tumas Group businessman charged with being an accomplice the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The Chief Justice will now choose a new magistrate for the case.
Caruana Galizia’s family and Yorgen Fenech had both filed separate applications for Lia’s recusal given that her father-in-law Pawlu Lia works as a lawyer for Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his former chief of staff Keith Schembri.
After his arrest, Fenech implicated Schembri in the murder of Caruana Galizia, triggering a political crisis.
Lia’s decision to recuse herself was made earlier today in the chamber, with the compilation of evidence against Fenech that was scheduled to start today postponed to a later date.
Fenech, journalists, lawyers, and Caruana Galizia family members were left in the dark about this decision, with the courts earlier saying that the sitting had merely been postponed to tomorrow.
Legal sources have questioned why she took so long instead of recusing herself immediately.
Besides being Muscat’s personal lawyer, Pawlu Lia is also the government’s representative on the Commission For The Administration Of Justice, which is responsible for disciplinary action against the judiciary and lawyers.
He has also been involved in many of the court cases involving the Labour Party and its exponents, most notably facing off against Adrian Delia in his bid to publish a full version of the Egrant Inquiry.
Magistrate Nadine Lia was appointed earlier this year, an appointment which was immediately controversial given her father-in-law’s links to the ruling government. The appointment was contested in court by activist group Repubblika, with the European Court of Justice set to give its ruling on the issue.