A magistrate assigned the compilation of evidence against four men, arraigned on Wednesday over their alleged links to the murders of Daphne Caruana Galizia and lawyer Carmel Chircop, has abstained.

Magistrate Marse-Ann Farrugia delivered her pronouncement on Friday, after the case against Maksar brothers Adrian and Robert Agius, their associate Jamie Vella and George Degiorgio, had been assigned to her on Thursday afternoon.

The fact that she has been handling the inquiry into the Chircop murder since the fatal shooting in October 2015 could possibly give rise to “legitimate doubts” as to a “pre-formed opinion” on her part in respect of anyone or all of the accused.

Magistrate Farrugia explained that the inquiry into the Chircop murder had been ongoing for the past five years, right up to the suspects’ arraignment late on Wednesday, and she had not delivered her conclusions yet.

Since she had sound knowledge of all the evidence gathered so far in the inquiry, doubts could possibly arise over her “objective (functional) impartiality.”

Although her role in handling the inquiry did not feature among the grounds for abstention, Magistrate Farrugia observed that according to local and European caselaw and teachings, she was to withdraw from the case in case of legitimate doubt.

This was also in homage to the maxim that justice was not only to be done but was also to be seen to be done, the magistrate concluded.

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