Yorgen Fenech was ruled out as a suspect in five other bombing cases analysed in a comparative study to determine the source of the explosive that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia, a court heard.

That detail emerged on Friday when Fenech, awaiting trial for his alleged complicity in the journalist’s assassination, was escorted back before the Criminal Court for another pre-trial session.

During the previous sitting, the defence had stated that Fenech insisted that he was not the mastermind behind the murder and urged the prosecution to "do its job well and find the true mastermind".

These pre-trial hearings follow October’s judgment by the Court of Criminal Appeal on a number of preliminary pleas raised by Fenech’s lawyers.

That judgment confirmed a decision by the first court whereby initial statements given by Fenech for the purpose of securing a presidential pardon, were declared inadmissible in evidence.

When releasing those statements to the police, Fenech was already viewed as a murder suspect and yet, necessary legal safeguards in taking down his version were not followed.

Consequently, those statements were legally vitiated and no reference to them whatsoever could be made at the upcoming trial.

The appeals court also confirmed the reopening of the murder compilation so that a number of witnesses flagged by Fenech’s lawyers could testify.

A list of 16 witnesses was minuted on Friday by Madam Justice Grima when the pre-trial hearings resumed.

Among those mentioned were a number of police officers as well as Europol and Maltese court experts appointed in the in genere inquiry to perform specific tasks.

One of those was Marinus Van Der Meij who was appointed by the inquiring magistrate in March 2018 to examine Caruana Galizia's cloned mobile phone and to extract any data relevant to the murder investigation.

The clone had been produced by another court expert working on the victim’s phone that was destroyed in the car bomb explosion that killed the journalist metres away from her Bidnija home on October 16, 2017.

Those experts had not yet presented their findings to the inquiring magistrate when the murder compilation against Fenech was wrapped up after the Attorney General issued the bill of indictment.

Fenech’s lawyers have previously voiced concerns about the report drawn up by Van Der Meij in separate proceedings before the constitutional courts where they are claiming that the accused’s right to a fair hearing was breached by the prosecution’s non-disclosure of data.

The lawyers are claiming that the report about the victim’s cloned phone appeared “not to exist” in the records of the murder case, in spite of the expert himself confirming that he had completed his task and “physically” handed over his report to the magistrate.

The expert is now expected to testify at the re-opened compilation of evidence.

Data from cloned phone

Legal and digital forensic expert, Martin Bajada, is also to present his report about data extracted from the cloned phone, after removing all reference to the journalist’s sources.

Another witness requested by the defence was Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi.

The former Armed Forces Commander had been appointed by a magistrate conducting the murder inquiry to carry out a comparative study between the Caruana Galizia case and five other cases.

That task was entrusted to Curmi as an explosives expert and the aim behind the study was to enable the magistrate to get to the source of the explosive that killed the journalist.

This was explained by Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia when objecting to the defence’s request on Friday.

“Fenech is not at all implicated in any of those five [cases],” argued the prosecutor, questioning the relevance behind the defence’s request.

“How can we exclude [Curmi’s] relevance without even having heard him,” countered lawyer Charles Mercieca.

The brigadier had testified in separate proceedings against Tal-Maksar brothers, Robert and Adrian Agius, George Degiorgio and Jamie Vella, who are accused of supplying the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia.

Curmi had testified before Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo who conducted that separate compilation of evidence and he had done so in the presence of prosecutors from the AG’s Office.

“So the AG knows, but the defence does not,” argued Mercieca, saying that such situation gave rise to inequality of arms.

“Could we strike a compromise?” added the lawyer. “Could the brigadier testify under the same conditions as he had done [before Magistrate Farrugia Frendo]?”

On that occasion, Curmi had testified behind closed doors.

Judge Grima questioned the relevance of such testimony even if, hypothetically speaking, the explosives used in this murder case were to be the same as that used in the other five cases.

Such testimony might shed light upon the alleged “chain” linking various players in the murder.

“It might show that this is not the story we were led to believe,” replied Mercieca.

“We are saying that he [Fenech] was not involved at any stage.”

After hearing further submissions, the court upheld the defence’s request, adding Curmi to the list of witnesses who are to testify in the re-opened compilation, but clarifying that his testimony was to be limited to the Caruana Galizia murder and was to be heard behind closed doors.

The court also upheld Fenech’s request for call data from Melvin Theuma and Keith Schembri’s mobile phones, presented in the phantom job case, to be produced in evidence in the murder proceedings.

The judge finally ordered the case file to be sent back to the Magistrates’ Court for the compilation of evidence to be re-opened so that those witnesses indicated by the Criminal Court may testify and other documentary evidence compiled.

Deputy AG Philip Galea Farrugia prosecuted.

Lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran and Charles Mercieca were defence counsel.

Lawyer Jason Azzopardi appeared parte civile.

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