The prime minister said Thursday it is too early for him to decide whether to recuse himself over the decision on whether to grant Vincent Muscat, known as il-Koħħu, a presidential pardon.  

Muscat, who has been under arrest for almost two years, and is among those accused of the car bomb murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

On Wednesday he filed a judicial protest against Prime Minister Robert Abela, insisting he should abstain from being involved in a decision whether or not to grant him a pardon. 

Abela, who is a lawyer by profession, has represented Robert and Adrian Agius, known as tal-Maksar, whom Muscat is expected to name as accomplices in the murder.

The prime minister told Times of Malta last month that he was seeking advice about whether he should be involved in Muscat’s pardon decision.

On Thursday he said it was “too early” to say whether he would be recusing himself as talks on the pardon are still in the early stages.  

“When it comes to deciding on whether to recuse myself, the cardinal principle I will be deciding on is what involvement I had in a professional capacity with people who may be impacted by the denial or acceptance of a pardon to Vincent Muscat,” he said. 

“The other issue I am considering is that fundamentally I don't believe that I should abdicate from the decision. As difficult as that may be, whether or not to be part of the process, no one can decide that for me.” 

Abela said deciding on the pardon was a sensitive matter for the Cabinet that could lead to the resolution of a number of criminal cases. It showed that judicial and investigative processes were working and that Muscat’s information could allegedly put to bed crimes committed a number of years ago.

“When analysing this situation, I understand that there are people who are insisting against my participation in this decision because they know that I will decide on the basis of common good and justice,” Abela said. 

“Whatever my decision, I'm going to decide on the basis of the common good without favouring any individual and it could very well be that this fact is bothering some people.” 

In his judicial protest, Muscat said that the prime minister’s conflict of interest in this matter is “crystal clear,” saying that Abela had spoken about his involvement in an eventual pardon decision in reply to a question, and had not done so “spontaneously”. 

The judicial protest also noted that when speaking to MaltaToday, three days ago, Abela had referred to Muscat as an “arch-criminal”. 

Muscat is also seeking to ensure that a minister alleged to have been involved in a years-old crime also be excluded from having any say in the pardon request.

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