Ta’ Maksar brother Adrian Agius was denied bail by a court on Tuesday, one day after his lawyer argued that all civilian witnesses had testified in the case against his client.
Agius stands accused of ordering the murder of lawyer Carmel Chircop, who was found gunned down in a Birkirkara garage in October 2015. He is pleading not guilty.
In a decision delivered on Tuesday, Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo refused Agius’ bail application, saying that while the accused was presumed innocent, bail was not an automatic right.
While civilian witnesses had testified in the case, a magisterial inquiry into Chircop’s murder was not concluded and a copy of it had not yet been filed in the compilation of evidence in the case.
Agius was arrested in a February operation that also saw his brother Robert and associate Jamie Vella taken into police custody.
In her decree, the magistrate noted that just three months had passed since the arrests and that proceedings were still at an early stage.
The gravity of the crime he stood accused of also had a bearing on her decision, she added, saying bail was being denied “at this stage”.
When making his arguments in favour of bail on Monday, defence lawyer Alfred Abela had argued that “public order” arguments made by the court to deny bail in other cases, such as those against Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri, had no bearing in domestic law.
The magistrate touched upon the defence’s arguments in her bail decree, citing a recent European Court of Human Rights judgement that went against Fenech.
That court had found that continued detention could be justified if there were signs of a real public interest need, she noted, with that outweighing the rule of respect for individual liberty.
The risk of an accused fleeing the country, pressuring witnesses, tampering with evidence, colluding with others, reoffending, concerns of public disorder and the need to protect the accused himself were all justifications for denying bail, she said.