Lead investigator Keith Arnaud gave testimony about a "confidential" interrogation that Yorgen Fenech had given the police last year, but the details were given behind closed doors, following a court order. 

Lawyers on both sides of the fence sparred in court over whether Arnaud's testimony, which is believed to be important to the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case, should be given in the presence of the media.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello decided the case should be heard privately and warned the media that any leaks about the details would be tantamount to a criminal offence.  

Fenech's lawyers had claimed that allowing questions on anything the businessman told police before he was denied a presidential pardon would prejudice his rights. Arnaud testified for around three hours. 

Fenech, the businessman who stands accused of complicity in Caruana Galizia's murder case, was back in court on Thursday for his compilation of evidence. 

At the end of the sitting, Fenech's lawyers once asked for bail, insisting that there were no reasons to fear the businessman could abscond. The prosecution objected to the request and the magistrate is expected to rule later.

Case adjourned

2.25pm Today's session, mainly heard behind closed doors, comes to an end. The case is adjourned for Monday at 1pm. 

Request for bail

2.20pm Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri says that when Fenech was out on bail, he was not accompanied by the police.

“There were many officers but not to prevent his escape,” she adds.

The defence argues that the investigation has been ongoing for one year and  yet there are no results. Fenech is prepared to offer a third party guarantee.

A decision on bail will be taken later. 

Magistrate says that court was “bending over backwards” to hear this case, and would not allow anything to stop any witnesses from testifying.

150,000 photos

2.15pm We're finally back in the court room but we won't be long. 

Galea Farrugia from the AG's office suggests that the defence was doing its utmost to try to stop Europol officials from testifying. 

The court says it was bending over backwards and would not allow anything to stop witnesses from testifying.

Galea Farrugia says this is a complex case. Just on Wednesday, Arnaud testified that there are new leads. There are 150,000 photos on one mobile phone alone and therefore other new leads need to be investigated.

The fear of the suspect absconding remains, he says.

Lawyers request direct, unmonitored line to Fenech

1.35pm We don't have any more updates from behind the closed doors testimony taking place now. 

But in the meantime, we've found out that the court has rejected a request by  Fenech’s lawyers for a direct, unmonitored line to be able to communicate with their client in prison.

You can read the story here. 

Magistrate rules on Fenech's data

12.05pm Meanwhile, we just got hold of another decree delivered by Magistrate Montebello on Wednesday.

It concerned Yorgen Fenech’s request to preserve all service provider data gathered during investigations.

The magistrate said that the accused’s right for such material data was limited to that data, which is “material” to the murder case.

The court could not grant the accused unlimited access to the data, especially since it involved private persons and individuals deemed to be of interest in the murder investigations.

Besides, the accused gave no valid reason to show that this evidence could exonerate him or reduce his punishment.

What happened so far

11.20am In a nutshell, Fenech’s defence team insisted that lead investigator Keith Arnaud testifies behind closed doors, saying that the media reports could well prejudice the opinion of future jurors. Arnaud is expected to give evidence of what Yorgen Fenech told the police confidentially for the purpose of obtaining a pardon. This interrogation happened this time last year before he was arraigned.

The prosecution and the parte civile lawyers have objected to the defence team and want Arnaud to testify in public, especially since we are still at compilation of evidence stage. Let's remember, the case still has to go to trial. 

But the magistrate has decreed that Arnaud's testimony will take place behind closed doors. She issues a warning that anything leaked from what is said behind closed doors is a criminal offence.

We are now waiting in the corridors.

Arnaud testimony behind closed doors

11am Comodini Cachia insists there is no irreparable harm when the testimony is heard at compilation stage, which is intended to preserve evidence.

But the defence lawyer says that the people reading the media reports today, who will be called in as jurors, will be the judges of facts. Lawyer Charles Mercieca harps on wide media coverage of the case and what he describes as the irremediable prejudice suffered.

The magistrate has heard enough. She says it is not for this court to determine irremediable prejudice but its duty is to ensure that as much as possible, the accused’s rights are not breached.

The decision whether to hold the sitting behind open or closed doors is one that lies solely with this court.

She makes it clear that any revelation of such testimony and related acts is a criminal offence and each person present behind closed doors is bound by secrecy.

The magistrates decides Arnaud's testimony will be heard behind closed doors. The press has to leave the court room. 

Keith Arnaud (centre) in a file photo.Keith Arnaud (centre) in a file photo.

Lawyers spar on interpretation

10.55am Lawyer Charles Mercieca now intervenes.

He says that earlier on, evidence about third parties had been heard behind closed doors and the prosecution had agreed.

Lawyer Marion Camilleri clarifies that under informal discussions with the police, certain information may have been given.

"Our request is to safeguard the rights of accused, there is an ongoing constitutional case and given the extensive media coverage, his rights will be prejudiced."

Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia, lawyer for the Caruana Galizia family, intervenes: "I’ve read this morning’s decree well. The court denied the interim measure because there is no irremediable prejudice..."

She refers to another constitutional court pronouncement in the case of the Degiorgio brothers (the alleged hitmen) who had tried but failed to block FBI testimony.

As the lawyers engage in debate, Arnaud steps off the witness stand. 

Defence wants testimony to be heard behind closed doors

10.45am Magistrate firmly says that the evidence will relate to the murder case, unless the accused himself asks for testimony to be held behind closed doors.

Camilleri says that they wish this part to be held behind closed doors, in view of the decree delivered this morning.

The magistrate has not yet seen this decree.

But Galea Farrugia from the AG's office stands up to clarify the position.

"The decree didn’t quite say that," he points out.

It said that the magistrate might consider hearing certain evidence behind closed doors should it be deemed as prejudicial.

The defence team asks for the "informal" testimony which had been given by the accused to investigators, to be heard behind closed doors. 

Objections right away

10.38am Yorgen Fenech is escorted in. The magistrate takes her seat and the court is in session.

Keith Arnaud is the first to testify. He has not uttered a word and the defence immediately raises objections. 

"He hasn't even started," the magistrate says.

Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri says that in view of the decree just delivered, that court said that certain info may be given behind closed doors.

Background: Fenech had instituted proceedings by means of an urgent application to block questions about information given to investigators for the purpose of getting a presidential pardon.

Parties gather in Hall 22

10.20am We're in Hall 22, the so-called trial-by-jury hall. Family members of the accused and the victim have gathered as well as lawyers and senior police officials. 

There are three armed security guards stationed inside.

Last Tuesday, Fenech did not attend the interim measure hearing, with his lawyers informing the court he was unwell.

Four hours allocated

10am The court has allocated four hours for Thursday's sitting. It comes a day after superintendent Keith Arnaud testified in the Caruana Galizia murder inquiry. Arnaud told the board that data which Europol experts extracted and analysed from devices seized as part of the murder case would be presented in the case against Fenech in the coming days.

Daphne Caruana Galizia and Yorgen Fenech.Daphne Caruana Galizia and Yorgen Fenech.

Who are the main players?

Yorgen Fenech: the businessman accused of being the mastermind behind the murder;

Melvin Theuma: the self-confessed middleman in the murder;

Vince Muscat, Alfred Degiorgio, George Degiorgio: the alleged hitmen;

Keith Arnaud, Kurt Zahra: the lead police investigators;

Keith Schembri: the OPM's former chief of staff;

Lawrence Cutajar: the former police commissioner;

Kenneth Camilleri: a member of Joseph Muscat's security detail;

Johann Cremona: a business associate of Yorgen Fenech's. 

Edwin Brincat (Il-Ġojja): a friend of Lawrence Cutajar and Melvin Theuma;

Rachel Montebello: the presiding magistrate;

Gianluca Caruana Curran, Marion Camilleri, Charles Mercieca: the lawyers appearing on Fenech’s behalf;

Jason Azzopardi, Therese Comodini Cachia: the lawyers appearing for the Caruana Galizia family.

Philip Galea Farrugia, Nadia Attard: representing the AG’s office and assisting the prosecution.

Gianluca Caruana Curran before the sitting. Photo: Matthew MirabelliGianluca Caruana Curran before the sitting. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

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