A court has dismissed a claim by Yorgen Fenech that his right to the presumption of innocence* was breached by Nationalist MP Beppe Fenech Adami during a session of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The committee, of which Fenech Adami is the chairman, is currently discussing an Auditor General report on the Electrogas power station.
Fenech, who has been charged with masterminding the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, was one of the power station’s shareholders, and a key part of the team that saw the project come to fruition.
Fenech’s complaint followed a PAC sitting which was hearing testimony from former Electrogas director Paul Apap Bologna, who is also a shareholder of the company. During that sitting, Fenech Adami said, repeatedly, that had it not been for the Electrogas project, Daphne Caruana Galizia would still be alive.
“Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed because of corruption in the Electrogas contract,” Fenech Adami said when challenged by Labour MPs to say whether he was suggested that Apap Bologna was involved in the murder.
In a decree handed down today, magistrate Rachel Montebello noted that Fenech Adami had made the remarks during a PAC session, and in his capacity as chairman. Because of this, he could be considered a public official at law, however, the magistrate noted that Fenech Adami had not referred to Fenech at any point during the exchange.
“All he said was that the murder of the journalist could be attributed to corruption in the Electrogas project,” the magistrate said, pointing out that government representatives on the committee had in fact asked Fenech Adami whether he was suggesting that Apap Bologna was involved.
The magistrate said that while Fenech Adami’s statements and his linking of Electrogas to the murder had “broad implications”, they did not impact Fenech’s right to the presumption of innocence.
However, she also said that it was “evident that such statements of a political nature and which constitute the defendant’s political opinion, are out of place, not only in the forum in which they were made but also because they were made by a public official exerting a specific public function that has nothing to do with the criminal proceedings related to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia”.
“[Fenech Adami] should have been a lot more careful when making public statements of a political nature since he was not participating in a public debate but was primarily fulfilling a role established by law,” the magistrate said.
What do you make of the magistrate’s decree?