More than 200 academics have condemned attacks on the judiciary in the aftermath of the Vitals magisterial inquiry which led to criminal charges being filed against former prime minister Joseph Muscat, among others.

“We are deeply troubled by the recent and ongoing attacks on the Maltese judiciary, particularly the targeting of a specific magistrate who conducted a sensitive magisterial inquiry on a topic of national interest,” a petition featuring the academics' signatures reads.

As of 4pm on Thursday, 222 had signed the petition.

“These attacks undermine the independence of a critical institution. An impartial judiciary is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy, ensuring justice is served without fear or favour. We firmly believe that the truth is essential for a just society. Only when institutions, including the judiciary, can function independently and without intimidation can the truth be revealed,” the petition continued.

The University of Malta academics condemned any attempt to deflect scrutiny through attacks on the institutions responsible for upholding the rule of law.

They also urged those "who value a just and democratic Malta" to support their condemnation. 

The petition features the names of professors, faculty deans and lecturers. 

It is the latest in a series of condemnations that Prime Minister Robert Abela and his predecessor, Joseph Muscat, have faced. 

Both men have heaped scorn on a magisterial inquiry that triggered criminal charges against top political figures, including Muscat himself, his chief of staff Keith Schembri and former health minister Konrad Mizzi, deputy prime minister Chris Fearne and central bank governor Edward Scicluna, among others.

They all face charges ranging from money laundering to corruption and fraud.

Abela has repeatedly claimed the magistrate purposely delayed the conclusions to time it with the European Parliament and local council elections, that the inquiry was biased and that sections of the judiciary were part of an "establishment" that was out to destroy the Labour Party.

His comments earned him rebuke from NGOs, who said that his comments were 'authoritarian' and a 'threat to democracy', particularly those directed at  Magistrate Gabriella Vella, who oversaw the magisterial inquiry.

Law students on Tuesday also staged a demonstration outside the law court, and employers have called for an urgent meeting of social partners to discuss the comments. 

On Wednesday, Abela and Muscat received their strongest rebuke yet: President Myriam Spiteri Debono called for cool heads and said the judiciary should be allowed to work in a "serene environment".  

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