Live updates

6.20pm Thank you for joining us today - we'll be back on Wednesday morning as the compilation of evidence continues. If you missed the day's events, read our round-up of the court session

5.40pm The case is adjourned until tomorrow, Wednesday, at 10am.

5.38pm The director of Corradino Correctional Facility will also make an appearance tomorrow - one of the accused, George Degiorgio, has said that he is being kept in poor conditions. His lawyer William Cuschieri tells the court that his client is being made to sleep on a mattress on the floor. 

5.34pm  The compilation of evidence ends for today.  Inspector Arnaud will continue testifying tomorrow. 

5.28pm Two of these SIM cards were activated in Senglea, with another two activated in Ħamrun. 

"We began to suspect that George [Degiorgio] was using these numbers," Inspector Arnaud tells the court. 

Investigators then got hold of call logs for both the other accused men, and discovered that both the Degiorgio brothers had their own pleasure boats. 

They then began to scour CCTV of the Grand Harbour to see if they could identify either of these boats - and spotted Alfred's boat, Maya, leaving the port at around 8am on the day of Ms Caruana Galizia's murder.  

It was again spotted outside the Grand Harbour at around 2.50pm. 

5.20pm  Back in court.

George Degiorgio's phone was already being tapped by police, the inspector says. 

At one point, Mr Degiorgio called someone up and asked them "do me a favour, top me up [with phone credit]." 

The interlocutor couldn't, so he told him how to get an emergency  phone credit "loan" by sending a text to an special number. 

Mr Degiorgio then called someone else - names are being protected by the court - and asked them to send him a €5 Vodafone top up. 

He gave the person the number to top up - "and please don't take long," he said - and promptly received the top up. 

The topped up number, Inspector Arnaud says, was in the same location as Mr Degiorgio. It had only made contact with two numbers previously, and was part of a batch of SIM cards all activated within 20 minutes of each other. 

5.16pm Members of the press have been asked to leave the courtroom temporarily, while the prosecution divulges some sensitive details about the case. 

5.12pm The other device, a Nokia 105 phone, was picked up by towers on the north and south multiple times. It kept pinging between the various towers - towers that all point towards the sea.  

Investigators combing the crime scene found pieces of board, some small nuts and a piece of plastic with the word 'card' on it. These bits of debris did not belong to the leased Peugeot Ms Caruana Galizia was driving, Inspector Arnaud says. 

5.10pm One device was switched on at 2am on October 16 in Bidnija. It remained there, active, until the 3pm explosion which killed Ms Caruana Galizia. 

5.03pm The phones were used for a third time on October 16, with just the single text sent from one to the other - the text that detonated the bomb. After that, both devices went silent. 

The SIM cards were used in 2G mobile phones, the Inspector says, but on one occasion investigators noted that the IMEI of one of the devices used belonged to a board used to receive mobile commands. 

5pm The two phone numbers both went live on January 10 of this year, the Inspector says. Both were topped up with some credit and swapped four text messages. 

More text messages were exchanged between the two numbers in August, and the numbers were again topped up with phone credit. 

4.58pm The message was sent to the phone from out at sea - something investigators ascertained from cell tower signals, he says. 

The numbers were activated back in November 2016.

4.52pm Investigators managed to identify Ms Caruana Galizia'sphone by its serial number. 

The day of the murder - October 16 - Vodafone has switched off its tower in Bidnija for maintenance between 8am and 6pm, and calls were being routed through a cell tower in Mosta. 

Ms Caruana Galizia last used her phone at around 2.30pm that day. 

An FBI cellular activity team was brought in to analyse mobile phone activity in the area. All mobile phone providers had handed over data. 

One particular phone number on a Vodafone SIM card lost contact with the tower at precisely the moment it received contact at 2.59pm, the Inspector says. 

Inspector Arnaud is alluding to the trigger that set off the bomb in Ms Caruana Galizia's car. 

4.50pm Inspector Arnaud tells the court that he walked past the toppled wall, towards a tree that overlooked the Bidnija road. 

He found two stones placed beneath the tree, and what looked like a "fresh-looking" cigarette butt, which was sent in for forensic analysis. 

4.46pm Investigators had noted a few "interesting" vantage points from which Ms Caruana Galizia's house and the spot where the explosion happened were visible, he says. 

The best of them, Inspector Arnaud says, was the tat-Tarġa Battery - where investigators found part of the rubble wall toppled.

A resident had also told them they had noticed a car being parked there regularly, including the day she was killed and the previous one. They never saw it again after the murder. 

4.43pm The bomb was an "organic explosive", overseas testing had confirmed. 

Inspectors gathered around 25 hours' worth of camera footage from every home and building in the area, from hours before the car was last parked at home to after the explosion. 

A special team was set up to comb through the footage, Inspector Arnaud says. 

""It became clear to us that among those who killed her, someone would have likely been observing her from close," he says, noting that Ms Caruana Galizia did not have any specific routines or patterns. 

4.41pm The crime scene was cordoned off for four days, the Inspector says. Dutch forensic experts arrived the day after the explosion and ran the crime scene investigation together with local experts. 

A phone hotline and email for anyone willing to come forward with information were immediately set up, and remain open to this day. 

Ms Caruana Galizia's car was lifted and taken to police headquarters, where it was kept locked in a garage and under the watch of CCTV cameras to ensure it was not tampered with. 

4.35pm That evening, the car was parked facing fields outside their house. Ms Caruana Galizia used it the next day - she had errands to run. 

She left the house, but forgot her cheque book and popped back indoors to fetch it. She then left, got into the car and drove off. 

Seconds later, her son Matthew heard the explosion and ran out of the house. 

4.33pm Inspector Arnaud is now describing the moment he arrived at the scene of the bomb blast in Bidnija, where Ms Caruana Galizia was killed

He confirmed with Ms Caruana Galizia's family that she was in the car and that she had been leasing it from Percius car hire for the previous four months. 

She used the car almost exclusively, though in the fortnight before her death her son Matthew had also used it - he had used it on the day before her death, Inspector Arnaud tells the court. 

4.30pm The inspector presents six snapshots taken from Google Earth which show where the explosion occurred. Each is appropriately labelled - "victim's house", "explosion location" and so on. 

The defence asks for a copy of the images, which it is entitled to. The magistrate tells defence lawyer Martin Fenech he'll have copies by tomorrow, when the hearing will continue. 

4.27pm Keith Arnaud takes the stand and tells the court that one of the accused, George Degiorgio, addressed him as he was leaving the courtroom earlier. 

"It was a meaningless comment," he says, not a threat - but it was about the case.  

He asks the court to warn Mr Degiorgio not to make such comments - something magistrate Stafrace Zammit does, telling all the accused that they should not pass comments.  

4.25pm  A compromise solution: Sensitive parts of the compilation will be heard in private. Others will be open to the press. 

4.22pm The assistant attorney general wants the compilation of evidence to take place behind closed doors. Details about mobile phones used, for instance, are linked to ongoing investigations, he says, and he does not want to jeopardise those. 

4.17pm The request was frivolous, the magistrate says. The compilation of evidence can begin. The magistrate says it will go on for one hour today.

4.16pm Magistrate Stafrace Zammit dismisses the request to the refer the case to a constitutional court.

4.11pm To clarify - if the defence request is turned down and if the defence then opts to file a separate Constitutional court case, prosecution or lawyers appearing parte civile must file a request with magistrate Stafrace Zammit for the 30-day timeframe to be frozen. 

If they don't and the 30-day timeframe lapses, then the three accused will walk away with conditional discharges. 

4.09pm The court is back in session. Magistrate Stafrace Zammit is reading out a recap of the morning's proceedings. 

4.07pm Of course, should the magistrate turn down the request, defence lawyers might leave it at that and allow the compilation of evidence to proceed. 

In that case, Keith Arnaud, the lead investigator who arrested the three, will start detailing the investigation and evidence against the three. 

4.05pm People filing into the courtroom. For those who have just joined: Magistrate Stafrace Zammit must decide whether to accept the defence's request to refer the case to a constitutional court, or else turn the request down. 

If she accepts the request, the 30-day time window in which the compilation of evidence must be completed will be frozen. 

If she turns the request down, we will most likely see defence lawyers file a separate constitutional case to that effect. 

3.55pm We're back. The hearing is expected to resume shortly. 

1.20pm We'll be back at 4pm with more live updates from the courtroom. Here's a recap of the day's events so far: 

  • Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit refused to recuse herself from the case, telling the defence that their request had no basis in law.

  • The magistrate must now rule on a second objection raised by defence lawyers, who want the case suspended while a constitutional court rules whether the chief justice was subjected to undue pressure when picking a magistrate. 

  • Defendants swapped some of their lawyers. Benjamin Valenzia quit, citing a conflict of interest. Francine Abela also resigned the brief. William Cuschieri, Martha Muscat and Josette Sultana take their place. 

1.14pm Magistrate Stafrace Zammit now has three hours to decide whether to accept the defence's request to suspend the case and ask a Constitutional court to decide whether there was any undue pressure placed on the chief justice when selecting a magistrate. 

1.10pm Scratch that. The magistrate has called a recess until 4pm. 

1.07pm Back to procedural matters. The defence's request to suspend the case and refer it to a Constitutional court is being verbalised, which is just a fancy way of saying it's being formally added to the court record.  

The magistrate will then ponder the request, and reach a decision. 

1.03pm An awkward moment. Magistrate Stafrace Zammit asks the other defence lawyers if they have anything to add. 

"Yes, that I agree with my colleague," says Martin Fenech with a chuckle and a smile. 

He's the only jovial one, though. Stony faces all round.

1.01pm I never said the media shouldn't cover this case, says defence lawyer William Cuschieri. He says that he only pointed out that the way the prime minister's comments were reported could have added undue pressure. 

12.59pm A reader weighs in on some of that courtroom gossip through Twitter. "Don't know whether to laugh or cry" at talk of magistrates steering clear of the case, he writes. 

At least that's been put to bed by magistrate Stafrace Zammit's decision to turn down the recusal request. 

12.54pm "I feel like I'm already in the constitutional court," says defence lawyer Martin Fenech. 

The accused have the right to know why the chief justice chose one magistrate rather than another, he argues. 

12.51pm She says the ECHR has always encouraged journalists to cover court proceedings. Only when there was a concerted campaign by the press calling for a decision one way or another could an argument about undue pressure be made, Dr Comodini Cachia says. 

"Here we have no press campaign, let alone one putting pressure on the judiciary."

12.44pm Dr Comodini Cachia is making up for her earlier silence here. She's still speaking, quoting various judgements and a Venice commission study to buttress her arguments. 

12.38pm She quotes various judgements - some from the ECHR, others from further ashore - concerning the appointment of magistrates to hear cases, and reiterates that there is no concern from her clients' end about the chief justice being unduly pressured.  

12.34pm Dr Comodini Cachia wants the defence to formally state that its request to refer the case to a higher court is only about concerns with the chief justice picking magistrates.

12.32pm Does the defence plan on using this constitutional court reference to once again raise Ms Caruana Galizia's comments on the judiciary, she muses.

"If not through the front door, would they then try to get this in through the window?" 

A reminder - on Monday, magistrate Charmaine Galea recused herself on the grounds that Ms Caruana Galizia had listed her among various Labour Party judicial appointees.   

12.30pm Therese Comodini Cachia, who is appearing on the Caruana Galizia family's behalf and who has until now left the talking up to her colleague Jason Azzopardi, speaks. 

12.27pm It's prosecutor Dr Galea Farrugia's turn to speak. 

Selecting magistrates was is one of the chief justice's functions, he says. God forbid the chief justice took such issues into consideration when making their choice.

Magistrates were assigned specific tasks, and there were only so many to choose from for such cases. 

12.25pm The magistrate can only deny the defence's request if it is frivolous or baseless, he says, and this is not the case. 

12.22pm Dr Cuschieri highlights Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's comments about the case, as well as the widespread media coverage it has received. 

All this could have weighed on the chief justice's decision, he says. 

12.18pm Defence lawyer William Cuschieri immediately speaks with his client, and then asks the court to refer the case to the Constitutional court.

Dr Cuschieri had earlier told the court that a higher court should decide whether there had been undue pressure to pick a magistrate - while the first was drawn by lot, the subsequent two were picked by the chief justice. 

12.16pm Ms Caruana Galizia's blog post did not praise her or her husband, magistrate Zammit Stafrace tells the court.  

The recusal request is not based on law, she adds. The recusal request is denied.

Defence lawyer Martin Fenech, who made the recusal request, reenters the courtroom just as the magistrate is announcing her decision. 

Dr Muscat speaking on Monday. Video: Jonathan Borg

12.15pm The magistrate has returned and the session has resumed.

12.12pm The three accused men are back in court, sitting in the dock. The courtroom waits in silence for the magistrate to return. 

12.10pm Courtroom gossip: the word going around prosecutorial circles is that magistrates don't want to touch this case with a barge pole. 

12pm As we wait for the magistrate to decide on the recusal request, you may want to revisit the stories mentioned by lawyers during this morning's hearing.

11.47am Magistrate Stafrace Zammit must first decide on the defence's recusal request. Should she deny that and rule that she can hear the case, she must then decide whether to accept the defence's request to refer the matter to a Constitutional court. 

If the case is sent to the higher court, then the 30-day time period during which accused must be put through the compilation of evidence stage is put on hold and the clock effectively freezes until that court makes its decision. 

11.43am Initial indications are that it will be at least 30 minutes before the magistrate reappears with a decision - though it could be longer than that. 

An important thing to note: Dr Cuschieri and Dr Muscat, who joined the defence team today, are appearing as lawyers, rather than legal aid. 

11.37am What's happened so far: 

  • Two defence lawyers stood down and were replaced. 
  • Defence team suggests there may have been pressure to pick the magistrate, whose husband was praised by Ms Caruana Galizia. They want the magistrate to recuse herself, and the case suspended until a Constitutional court decides whether there was undue pressure in picking a magistrate. 
  • Magistrate Stafrace Zammit retires to her chambers to deliberate and decide on the recusal request. 

11.35am The accused men leave the courtroom, walking right past Ms Caruana Galizia's mother. 

11.32am It's all procedural now. The defence's recusal request is being typed out, and the magistrate will then decide what to do. She has now left the courtroom and retired to her chambers to deliberate. 

Defence lawyers speak to their clients in a huddle. Vince Muscat and George Degiorgio are peppering them with questions. 

Huffs and sighs fill the courtroom. 

Ms Caruana Galizia was assassinated in mid-October.Ms Caruana Galizia was assassinated in mid-October.

11.28am Dr Azzopardi now reaches for another comparison - that of a request for recusal made by the General Workers' Union in a case against the Nationalist Party. 

That request was similar to this one, he said, and it had been "thrown to the dogs". 

Read more about that denied recusal in our article about that case.

11.25am Dr Azzopardi revisits that St Joseph's home case, saying that the court had found an active and direct link in that case. That was completely different to the facts of this case, he says. 

Keen to know more about that case? Have a read of our story about that judgement.

11.22am Dr Fenech's turn to speak. He cites a case concerning abuse at St Joseph's home, when a Constitutional court found that a judge should not have presided over the case because he had previously worked with a Church institution. 

"But are these the same circumstances," magistrate Stafrace Zammit asks. 

It's the principle that counts, Dr Fenech replies. 

11.18am Dr Azzopardi continues. The defence wants the magistrate to "abdicate" her responsibilities, he says, repeating the word twice for good measure. 

The least the defence could have done was show up in court with judgements to quote, he adds, noting that he and Dr Comodini Cachia had presented ECHR judgements which found that recusal requests had to be made on realistic, rather than "frivolous" grounds. 

11.16am Prosecutors take issue with this last point. Only the magistrate can know whether there are grounds for recusal, they say. 

'It was the attorney general's office which had been of the opinion that magistrate Scerri Herrera should recuse herself,' they say. 

That prompts Dr Azzopardi to pipe in. He and Therese Comodini Cachia (also appearing parte civile) had also asked for that recusal, he says. 

11.12am Defence lawyer Dr Fenech replies to Dr Azzopardi. We're simply trying to ensure that the accused's rights are upheld, he says. That has to happen in all cases, without question or exception. 

Just as magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera had recused herself from leading the magisterial inquiry into the murder because she had been attacked by Ms Caruana Galizia, so too should magistrate Stafrace Zammit recuse herself because Ms Caruana Galizia had dished out praise. 

11.11am In the meantime, here's that blog post in which Ms Caruana Galizia mentioned the magistrate's husband. 

11.10am Lawyer Jason Azzopardi, appearing parte civile, weighs in. 

This is nothing more than a fishing expedition, he says. The defence just wants magistrates to abdicate the responsibility they swore to uphold. 

11.04am Prosecutors are clearly exasperated.

The court has always reigned supreme, says the assistant AG, but this week "it has been reduced to the ridiculous". 

Dr Galea Farrugia says he's never seen what's been going on during these proceedings, and accuses the defence of clear delaying tactics. 

Reasons for recusal, he goes on to argue, are clearly listed in court rules: being related to a party; having represented one of the parties in the past; having weighed in on the matter at hand in the past; having appeared in arbitration; having a direct or indirect interest in the court's decision.  

A magistrate was duty-bound not to abstain unless one of these reasons applied, he says. 

11am The magistrate bats back: Ms Caruana Galizia wrote nothing about me, and just once about my husband. Every magistrate had some tenuous link to Ms Caruana Galizia, she notes. 

""Are you saying every magistrate should be recused?" she asks. 

"No," the defence team it begins formalising its request for the magistrate to recuse herself. 

10.58am Assistant attorney general Philip Galea Farrugia interjects and says he's confused - is the defence asking for the magistrate to recuse herself?

10.56am Defence lawyer Dr Cuschieri says a quick Google search reveals that there's been a lot of negative press about proceedings so far.  

His colleague Dr Fenech says Ms Caruana Galizia had once written an article praising the magistrate's husband, former Planning Authority chief Ian Stafrace. 

10.53am The magistrate is unimpressed by the sudden request to stop proceedings - you should have prepared this before the hearing, she tells the defence. 

The accused arrive in court. Photo: Matthew MirabelliThe accused arrive in court. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

There was no time, comes the reply. 

10.52am The first magistrate, Donatella Frendo Dimech, was chosen by lot. The subsequent two were picked by the chief justice, and defence lawyers are suggesting that this detail, coupled with the Prime Minister's comments, could raise questions about undue pressure in selecting a magistrate to preside over the pre-trial stage. 

10.47am The entire defence team joins Dr Cuschieri's request and asks for proceedings to be suspended until a Constitutional court can decide whether there has been undue pressure in choosing a magistrate. 

10.45am The magistrate mentions time frames, and Dr Cuschieri says these can be extended.

Background - Maltese law allows the president - and only the president - to extend the 30-day compilation of evidence period. 

10.43am Dr Cuschieri takes up the recusal mantle himself. The Prime Minister said he had every faith the judiciary would not allow justice to be stalled, he says. Was there any pressure in the choice of magistrate in this case? 

Dr Cuschieri asks for the matter to be referred to the Constitutional court, prompting the magistrate to point out that there's a timeframe the court has to stick to.   

10.40am Lawyer Martin Fenech, who has so far taken the lead in speaking up during previous sittings, does so again and asks magistrate Stafrace Zammit if she has any reason to recuse herself. 

It's Christmas time so there's plenty to do, the magistrate says in jest, but other than that there's nothing to justify a recusal. 

It looks like proceedings will actually...proceed today. 

10.37am Changes for the defence's legal team. Lawyers William Cuschieri and Martha Muscat will take over the defence of Alfred Degiorgio, after Francine Abela renounced her patronage. Lawyer Marc Sant is also assisting today. 

Lawyer Josette Sultana has also taken over the defence of George Degiorgio from Benjamin Valenzia, who has quit the case citing a conflict of interest. 

10.34am A rare display of emotion from the accused - Vince Muscat visibly huffed and sighed as he walked into the courtroom. 

10.33am The other two accused are brought in.

10.30am One of the accused is brought into court.  Alfred Degiorgio's handcuffs are removed and he takes a seat in the dock. His brother George and Vince Muscat remain outside the courtroom. 

10.25am The three accused men have arrived in court. As on previous occasions, they were brought in through a back entrance under heavy security. The court session is expected to begin shortly.  



A third attempt at completing pre-trial proceedings for three men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia will be made this morning, following two aborted hearings over the past days. 

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is the third magistrate assigned to hear the compilation of evidence against Alfred Degiorgio (il-Fulu), his brother George (iċ-Ċiniz) and Vince Muscat (il-Koħħu). 

At the compilation of evidence stage, a magistrate must decide whether prosecutors have enough evidence to warrant sending the accused to trial. 

Two previous pre-trial attempts fell flat when the magistrates responsible, Donatella Frendo Dimech and Charmaine Galea, abstained themselves following objections by defence lawyers. 

Magistrate Frendo Dimech had noted that she was a classmate of one of Ms Caruana Galizia's sisters some 35 years ago, while Magistrate Galea said that the late journalist had mentioned her in blog posts highlighting Labour Party appointments to the judiciary. 

Citing European Court of Human Rights case law, both magistrates said that justice had to be seen to be done and that any judge whose impartiality could in any way be called into question should withdraw from a case. 

Prosecutors have a 30-day window in which to conclude the compilation of evidence against the accused men. Failure to do so would see them conditionally discharged. With half that 30-day window already up, the clock is ticking and there is little time for the courts to waste.

Lawyers appearing on behalf of the Caruana Galizia family have suggested the defence is tactical forum shopping - effectively trying to run down the clock by objecting on tenuous grounds, with the hope of taking advantage of the 30-day limit. 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat yesterday said that he was confident that the Chief Justice, who has now assigned Magistrate Stafrace Zammit to the case, would not allow the three men to escape on "a technicality". 

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