A court has dismissed a request by former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for Magistrate Gabriella Vella to be suspended from working on the inquiry into the hospitals concession pending a decision in a breach of rights case.

The First Hall, Civil Court in its constitutional jurisdiction, presided over by Madam Justice Doreen Clarke, also turned down a request by Muscat for the case to be heard with urgency, observing that such a request was “superfluous” since the regulations on court procedures themselves dictated urgency.

Both decisions were announced in a decree delivered early on Wednesday morning in the presence of Muscat who returned to court after testifying in the proceedings last month.

During that testimony, Muscat claimed that his rights were breached when Magistrate Vella, who is investigating the controversial hospitals deal, had turned down his request for her recusal and classified comments made by her relatives on social media as freedom of expression.

“The minute Magistrate Vella passed judgment about her father and brother, saying that their comments were freedom of expression, that minute she took their side against me,” Muscat claimed.

He had subsequently filed constitutional proceedings requesting the court to order the magistrate’s recusal and, pending that decision, an interim measure suspending Magistrate Vella from any further work on the inquiry.

During that sitting, Madam Justice Clarke also heard submissions on a request by rule of law group Repubblika seeking authorisation to intervene in Muscat’s case, with their lawyer Jason Azzopardi arguing that they had called for the hospitals inquiry in the first place.

Muscat’s lawyer, Charlon Gouder, countered that the true motivation for Repubblika’s request to intervene was to be able to face the former prime minister in court.

“What they didn’t achieve in the political arena they are trying to do now,” Gouder had argued.

On Wednesday, Madam Justice Clarke delivered a second decree turning down Repubblika’s request for intervention.

The case will now proceed on the merits. 

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