Updated 12.52pm with Aditus Foundation statement below.

Repubblika said on Tuesday it would resist the prime minister's "hostile take-over of democracy and justice," describing his statements in the wake of the Vitals inquiry report as  "authoritarian and fascist".

"Even before news emerged of the inquiry's conclusion, Prime Minister Robert Abela launched a coordinated and emphatic public campaign targeting the inquiring magistrate as a "member of the establishment" explicitly accusing her of inflicting partisan retribution on Joseph Muscat and the Labour Party," the rule of law NGO said.

"Several government officials have taken up these remarks to initiate an online and real-world campaign of victimisation of the inquiring magistrate. Labour Party media has also published photos of the inquiring magistrate, targeting her for hatred and intimidation and exposing her to a credible risk of violence."

"Once again we see a coordinated effort conducted from the Office of the Prime Minister and led by the incumbent in that office, to undermine the credibility of anyone taking the evidence of bribery and corruption to their logical and legal conclusion, to threaten them, to intimidate them, and to ensure that people reasonably suspected of crime and corruption and any political associates with them continue to enjoy impunity. The Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry found this conduct to be the cause of her killing, for which the inquiry found the Maltese state responsible."

The NGO observed that Abela had also publicly claimed that as the executive branch leader, he served as "a check and balance" over the judiciary.

"This is a power the constitution, in seeking basic separation of powers, is explicit in not wanting the executive to have, especially considering that this outrageous intervention by the government is intended to protect politically powerful individuals from facing criminal prosecution. The Prime Minister’s conduct amounts to a gross assault on judicial independence and the rule of law," Repubblika said.

It added that it could not stand idly by as the prime minister assaulted judicial independence and undermined equality before the law in his interests and the interests of his party. "We will resist this attack and we will stand by state officials of conscience".

Its statement comes one day after Abela held a press conference to confirm that prosecutors have filed criminal charges against his predecessor Joseph Muscat and others. 

Abela used the press conference to emphasise that the accused are innocent until proven guilty and implied that the magisterial inquiry that triggered criminal charges was biased and had treated them unfairly. 

He also took digs at individual journalists who were there to report on the event and ask him questions, prompting condemnation from the Institute of Maltese Journalists.

He, Muscat and Labour media have pushed the line that the magistrate who led the inquiry is part of an "establishment" that wants to secretly control the country and harm the Labour Party. 

Aditus: Hands off our democracy

The Aditus Foundation in a separate statement on Tuesday also criticised the prime minister's remarks, describing them as a vile attacks on the judiciary and journalists.

"The prime minister’s speech left no room for interpretation. It was a direct and unequivocal undermining of people and positions simply because he is not comfortable with their activities. A prime minister should under no circumstance exploit his power to shame, bully or intimidate anyone. When the targets are the judiciary and journalists, the entire nation should rise up in their defence and claim 'Enough!'” Aditus said. 


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