Prime Minister Robert Abela on Sunday slammed the ‘shameful’ prison release for a few hours of one of the men convicted of killing Daphne Caruana Galizia, and blamed the law courts for it.

Times of Malta revealed on Saturday that George Degiorgio, who is serving a 40-year jail term for the murder, was allowed out of prison to attend a family baptism party.

That decision, by the criminal court, was insensitive to the family of the victim and insensitive to society,  Abela said. 

He pointed out that he had always felt it his duty to speak out when the courts sent a message that went against the expectations of society.

“Through a decree, the court decided to let a convicted criminal, who was  responsible for one of the worst murders in the history of our country out of prison to attend a party.”

This also sent a wrong signal to those who had successfully investigated the case.

Abela said that in the past few weeks he had been attacked by the Opposition for having criticised court sentences which were not in favour of the people’s security.  His was a consistent message, and yet, he said, the Opposition leader had blamed him for the decision about the prisoner’s release. Those remarks were disgraceful, Abela said.

The prime minister made his remarks when speaking at a Labour Party event.

Azzopardi: Decision was sole prerogative of prisons’ director

But a few hours earlier, lawyer and former Nationalist minister Jason Azzopardi in a Facebook post insisted it was the (newly-appointed) director of prisons who was solely responsible for the prisoner’s release and not the law courts. 

He said every prisoner had a right to request permission from the director of prisons to attend a family function outside the prisons. But he had no right for such permission to be granted.

When a prisoner was awaiting trial, as happened in this case (over another murder), the director asked whether the criminal court had any objection. The court in this case and in others before it issued its authorisation ‘subject to the exclusive discretion of the director of prisons.

Meanwhile, the superior appeals court abstained, saying this was the ‘exclusive and absolute prerogative of the director of prisons’.

“In this case it was the director of the Corradino Correctional Facility alone who issued permission. He was responsible, from beginning to end for granting permission and its associated conditions,” Azzopardi insisted.   

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