Ta’ Maksar brother Adrian Agius, accused of ordering the murder of lawyer Carmel Chircop, has once again been denied bail in view of the gravity of the alleged crime and the fear it creates within society.

That was the outcome of a decree delivered on Monday upon a second application for bail by Agius who was arrested in February in a joint operation that also netted his brother Robert and associate Jamie Vella.

The trio, together with George Degiorgio, one of the alleged hitmen in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, were subsequently arraigned and charged over various offences stemming from the two separate murders. 

Adrian Agius is pleading not guilty to ordering the assassination of the Birkirkara lawyer who was gunned down in a garage complex in October 2015. 

His latest bail request, dated August 17, was strongly debated during the ongoing compilation of evidence last week, with the prosecution objecting and claiming that Agius possessed the means to flee the country if he were to be released from preventive custody. 

Yet, the court, presided over by Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo, did not uphold that argument, pointing out that the prosecution had produced no evidence to substantiate its claim.

As for the risk of tampering with evidence, the court observed that although the Caruana Galizia murder inquiry was still ongoing, that did not apply to Agius since the charges against him linked him to the Chircop murder. 

However, the granting of bail was not an automatic right and the issue was always at the discretion of the court, observed Magistrate Farrugia Frendo. 

The ongoing proceedings and the position of the accused had not changed much since the previous request for bail, said the court.

At this stage, the court gave weight to the gravity of the crime, observing that Agius was being charged with “one of the most serious crimes,” namely wilful homicide.  

That notion was always to be taken into consideration and the law would not have expressly listed it as a factor militating against the granting of bail had it not intended it to be so considered by the court. 

The serious nature of the charges, in turn, could give rise to substantial fear in society, observed the court, citing “public disorder” and making reference to a recent European Court of Human Rights judgment against Yorgen Fenech.

That judgment declared that detention could be justified upon actual indications “of a genuine requirement of public interest which, notwithstanding the presumption of innocence, outweighs the rule of respect for individual liberty.”

In light of such considerations, the court concluded that, at this stage, Agius’ request could not be upheld. 

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