Over a year since a forensic expert told court that the evidence bag containing a cloned copy of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s mobile phone had been torn open, it is still unknown who broke the seal.

Last year, lawyer and court-appointed expert Martin Bajada had flagged a tear in the bag when testifying before the Criminal Court during a pre-trial session in Yorgen Fenech’s case.

He has now confirmed his observations when testifying at the re-opened compilation of evidence against the businessman awaiting trial as an alleged accomplice in the journalist’s murder. 

He told court that the seals on that evidence bag were not as he "had left them”.

Answering questions by the defence, Bajada said he had “no idea” as to who was responsible for breaking those seals.

The evidence bag bore the date and time when the expert had last opened and re-sealed it, but there was no further information except for Bajada’s own comments on the bag. 

Since he last handled it, “someone had cut the bag from the lower end and stapled it”.

The digital forensic expert has been tasked with sifting through emails sent to Daphne Caruana Galizia to identify and remove references to sources.

Together with another court-appointed expert, he now faces the lengthy and “delicate” task of going through emails received by Caruana Galizia on her phone and cross-checking them with stories on her blog to identify the journalist’s sources and any potential threats aimed against her. 

Defining a journalist’s source 

Each email would have to be printed, read and cross-checked with information uploaded on the journalist’s Running Commentary

Any information reflected in the contents of her blog would be deemed as coming from a source, and that reference would be removed from the header and footer of the email, explained Bajada, outlining how he proposed to go about the task.

Details that could reveal the source would also need to be removed from the body of the email.

Asked by defence lawyer Charles Mercieca for an indication of the time it would take to complete, Bajada targeted “end of February or beginning of March”.

“We were a team of six [experts] and it took us two years to build a picture,” added Bajada, evidently referring to previous work carried out on the case.

Under further questioning, Bajada said that he and his colleague would work on clones of the journalist’s phone and blog to ensure the originals are not touched. 

Those originals remain under court custody. 

However, the task of identifying sources was a “delicate” one.

If Caruana Galizia herself would have revealed a source, that email would no longer be considered as source material. 

“What if an email or message provided information that Caruana Galizia had not yet uploaded on her blog? Would that still be deemed a source," asked Superintendent Keith Arnaud, saying that the crux of the issue was to protect sources.  

“Every email, regardless of whether its content was put on the Running Commentary or not, which provided information to the journalist, should still be deemed a source, in my opinion,” argued Arnaud. 

Information she had not yet published

Caruana Galizia might have been working on certain information which she had not yet written about on her blog when she was murdered. 

“Those must still be considered as sources,” went on the prosecutor. 

“We have no interest in identifying sources but we do not wish that too much information is redacted,” said Mercieca, asking whether the removal of information could affect the content or sense of a particular email. 

The defence suggested that the experts ought to produce two extractions: one with and the other one without sources.

The parties would only get a copy of the redacted extraction but the full version would be available to the court. 

'We will give it all our attention'

Before embarking on their task, the experts needed direction as to what constituted a journalistic source and what data was to be removed. 

Magistrate Rachel Montebello, who is presiding over the compilation proceedings, is expected to hear submissions on this matter at the next sitting in January before delivering a decree. 

As for the projected completion date, Bajada said he and his colleague would set to work immediately once they get direction from the court. 

“Considering the gravity of the case, we will give it all our attention... We will give it priority over other cases we both have.”

Data traffic might favour defence, court told 

The sitting before Magistrate Montebello followed a pre-trial session before the Criminal Court where Fenech’s defence insisted that data traffic analysis- a task not completed by Europol experts - could “favour the defence”. 

Reacting to a comment by the AG prosecuting team that “all evidence had been produced”, Mercieca rebutted that that was not so. 

“We’re safeguarding the fundamental rights of Fenech… [The prosecution] is to produce all evidence both for and against. That’s something which in this case did not happen.” 

The court pointed out that the murder case was a “complex” one, involving many experts appointed to handle different tasks. 

Data traffic was required by investigators when still tracking down the perpetrators of the murder.

“That was done. Those people were found, and they faced trial before this court. That’s a closed chapter,” said Judge Edwina Grima, suggesting a practical approach. 

“We love to be practical, but not in case of a client who is facing potential life imprisonment,” countered Mercieca. 

'The truth will out'

“We wish the trial to start, the sooner the better… the truth will out... the truth we’ve been waiting for for so long. But Fenech must know where he stands. We are not interested in prolonging the proceedings but in concluding them,” the lawyer stressed. 

“I know. So does this court and everyone else,” said the judge. 

The prosecution informed the court that they had filed an application requesting that Alfred and George Degiorgio be added to their witnesses’ list at the upcoming trial. 

AG lawyers Anthony Vella, Danika Vella and Godwin Cini are prosecuting.

Lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran, Charles Mercieca and Marion Camilleri are defence counsel. 

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are appearing parte civile. 

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