Tempers flared amid a heated exchange in court on Thursday between Minister Chris Cardona's lawyer and Daphe Caruana Galizia's widower as the infamous brothel allegations unfold.
The incident happened in magistrate Francesco Depasquale's courtroom as the libel cases instituted by the minister and his personal aide Joe Gerada were called months after the slain journalist had claimed they had visited a brothel in Germany while on official business.
"I uphold my wife's former defence. I assume she was correct," declared Peter Caruana Galizia when pressed on the witness stand to declare his position in respect of the allegations made by his murdered wife.
Lawyer Pawlu Lia, assisting the applicants together with Dr Edward Gatt, requested Dr Caruana Galizia to take the witness stand.
"What is your position on the allegations made by your wife in respect of our clients?" the lawyer asked.
Dr Caruana Galizia replied: "I have taken over the lawsuits, just as I have inherited the house, bank accounts - in spite of the garnishee orders - and the rest... I assume her former defence."
"So you are making your wife’s allegations your own?” Dr Lia pressed on. “If you accept the allegations, my approach will be one, if not I shall adopt a different approach," the lawyer explained.
Dr Caruana Galizia replied: "Don't try to put words in my mouth", adding that there had been uncertainty about whether the applicants had intended to withdraw the libels or not.
You were the one who had approached me to have the libels withdrawn. Then you lied about me, forcing me to speak to the press to clarify matters. Something I had never done all my life
However, this remark appeared to have touched upon a sore point with Dr Lia who burst out that Dr Caruana Galizia had lied about him when he said the lawyer had spoken of the possibility of withdrawing the libels.
“You were the one who had approached me to have the libels withdrawn. Then you lied about me, forcing me to speak to the press to clarify matters. Something I had never done all my life,” Dr Lia insisted.
As the atmosphere became tense, Dr Lia abruptly brought to an end his questioning and requested the sitting to be adjourned.
Earlier on, lawyer Joseph Zammit Maempel, assisting the Caruana Galizia family, explained that he had filed an application so that files exhibited in the records of one libel case would be applicable to all five suits.
There are currently five libel suits, two filed by Dr Cardona against Daphne Caruana Galizia, two filed by his consultant Dr Gerada against Daphne Caruana Galizia and another case filed by Dr Cardona against Net TV.
Dr Lia rebutted that he would rather have the issue decided step by step, on a case by case basis. “One must substantiate allegations. This is no fishing expedition.”
“In order to do so we need scientific proof,” Dr Zammit Maempel retorted, clearly referring to the mobile provider's files which were crucial in determining whether or not the minister and his aide had actually visited Velbert, the site of the brothel at the centre of the libel suits.
The respondent’s lawyers had earlier requested the court to order the preservation of data stored on Transferred Account Procedure (TAP) files. These files would shed light on calls and messages made by both the Minister and Dr Gerada while abroad and could prove crucial in determining whether the men did actually visit Velbert between January 30 and February 1.
The court declared that it would deliver a decree on this issue once Dr Lia had filed a reply.
Ms Caruana Galizia had written in her blog in January 2017 that Dr Cardona was seen at the FKK Acapulco brothel in Velbert, while in Germany to take part in a forum on the digitisation of European industry.
The FKK Acapulco advertises itself as a "sauna club", with services including stripteases, gogo girls and "30 fully air-conditioned top suites".
Ms Caruana Galizia claimed that the minister had been spotted at the club in the company of an unidentified "short and bald" man - subsequently identified as his aide Joe Gerada.
Dr Cardona instituted four libel cases after Ms Caruana Galizia after the blog post, and a court had also provisionally upheld a request by the minister to freeze €47,000 in her account.
The case continues in May.
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