The Prime Minister has a responsibility not to pit the judiciary against the public with his statements, law students said in a demonstration outside the law courts on Tuesday. 

Robert Abela’s statements clearly indicate that the government believes the judiciary institution is against the people, Għaqda Studenti tal-Liġi (GħSL) president Andrew Drago said. 

Photo: Chris Sant FournierPhoto: Chris Sant Fournier

He was addressing a crowd of students, politicians, and activists who protested outside the law courts in Valletta over attacks on the judiciary in the wake of the publication of the Vitals magisterial inquiry report.

Several students, mainly hailing from the law course, and others turned up on Tuesday evening to express their anger at Abela’s statements and to show their solidarity with the judiciary.

Many held placards reading “No one is above the law” and “Students for justice”.

Photo: Chris Sant FournierPhoto: Chris Sant Fournier

Several politicians also showed up in support, including PN leader Bernard Grech, PN MEP David Casa, and PN MP Eve Borg Bonello, who is also a law student.

Independent MEP candidate Arnold Cassola and Robert Aquilina, a member of rule of law group Repubblika, were all in attendance.

On Monday Abela held a press conference to confirm that prosecutors have filed criminal charges against his predecessor Joseph Muscat and others.

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 into the sale of the hospitals to Vitals.

Earlier on Tuesday, Times of Malta confirmed Muscat, his chief-of-staff Keith Schembri, ex-minister Konrad Mizzi, and 19 other individuals and companies will be charged with money laundering, corruption and bribery and other serious crimes. 

Andrew Drago. Photo: Chris Sant FournierAndrew Drago. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Speaking outside the law courts, beside a large picture of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Drago said when Abela is speaking during a press conference, he is not speaking as a lawyer or for himself, but as a representative of the government. 

“The position the Prime Minister adopted yesterday was clear, that these institutions (law courts) are working against the public,” he said. 

“We, as GħSL, will not accept this. If Abela does not trust the magistrate, why does he not go to the Commission for the Administration of Justice? We know why because his reasons for undermining the inquiring magistrate are unreasonable and not based on anything apart from political gain.”

He called on the students to not allow the government to touch the courts. 

“We believe too much in the rule of law and we students will not allow you to touch this institution,” Drago ended his speech.

“My appeal to the government is that you need to realise you are the state and you need to defend us, not political partisan.”

Laura Chetcuti Dimech. Photo: Chris Sant FournierLaura Chetcuti Dimech. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Student quotes Abela’s thesis on judiciary being free of political pressure 

Student and GħSL vice president Laura Chetcuti Dimech slammed Abela’s comments and attacks on the judiciary, especially after his thesis reflects on judicial interference. 

“A judge must be free from political or other pressures,” Chetcuti Dimech read, quoting Abela’s 2002 Maltese LL.D thesis titled ‘Judicial Accountability and Impeachment”.

Photo: Chris Sant FournierPhoto: Chris Sant Fournier

“If you want to read it, this thesis was written by Robert Abela,” she said, as the crowd erupted in claps and cheers. 

Abela has repeatedly argued that, by law, Vella should have concluded her inquiry within 60 days and that the four-year period it took her to complete work on the Vitals one was “exaggerated”. 

But Chetcuti Dimech said that inquiries take longer to conclude due to the other works a magistrate must follow, and due to the limited pool of court experts available, meaning the compilation of reports is delayed. 

The protest was also addressed by KSU president Luke Bonanno, GħSL policy officer Michael Spiteri and Kunsill Nazzjonali taż-Żghażagħ national officer Sarah Xuereb.

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