Updated Friday 9.35am with court update
The court has upheld a request by the Caruana Galizia family to intervene in a suit filed by one of the murder suspects to stop FBI from testifying.
Attempts by one of the men accused of the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination to stop FBI agents from testifying in the murder compilation had been described on Thursday described as “a desperate manoeuvre by Mr Degiorgio to delay, if not block, the proceedings”.
In a lengthy constitutional sitting, lawyer William Cuschieri, representing Alfred Degiorgio, known as il-Fulu, asked whether his client would be granted a mere pecuniary remedy if his rights were breached.
The crux of the issue stemmed from the fact that the foreign experts had been working in tandem with IT expert Martin Bajada, who had been appointed by the court to gather the electronic data likely to prove crucial to the prosecution’s case.
During Thursday’s hearing it emerged that Dr Bajada had been appointed a day after the journalist’s assassination on October 16 and his findings had led to the arrest of 10 suspects and the subsequent arraignment of three of them, namely Mr Degiorgio and his brother George, and Vince Muscat, known as il-Koħħu.
The FBI were roped in later and it was clear that they had collaborated with Dr Bajada since all decrees relative to the inquiry were issued upon their joint request, Dr Cuschieri argued.
As expert, Dr Bajada was the lunga manus of the court which relied strongly upon his reports, Dr Cuschieri continued, adding that like other court officials, the expert was expected to be of good moral conduct.
Since, in the past, Dr Bajada had been convicted before a London court for theft and fraud, his appointment as court expert has often been disputed.
“Dr Bajada should never have been appointed in the first place and should never have been allowed to work alongside the FBI experts,” Dr Cuschieri insisted, pointing out that his client’s rights would be prejudiced if the foreign experts were allowed to testify next week.
“Immediately after the assassination, the Caruana Galizia family had requested a change of magistrate handling investigations. The family had its own reasons. So has my client whose situation is even worse since the court expert in question has a criminal conviction,” stressed Dr Cuschieri, pointing out that the court was to prevent rather than cure a breach of rights.
These arguments were rebutted by lawyer Maurizio Cordina from the AG’s office who pointed out that the case was just “a desperate manoeuvre by Mr Degiorgio to delay, if not block, the proceedings in his regard.”
Dr Cordina stressed that Dr Bajada had simply gathered evidence and had not worked with the FBI.
“How can one tell what their findings are if these experts have not yet testified,” Dr Cordina asked, adding that in this case irreparable harm to the prosecution’s case would ensue if these FBI agents were not allowed to testify.
In the earlier part of Thursday’s hearing, lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia, representing the Caruana Galizia family, made oral submissions upon another application requesting that the family be granted intervention in this constitutional suit.
Not only as ‘parte civile’ in the murder compilation, but also in terms of a positive obligation by the state to safeguard the right to life, the family of the murdered journalist has a direct interest not only in the inquiry but in all other proceedings stemming from the assassination, she argued.
Madam Justice Schembri Orland is expected to decide upon the intervention in the suit in chambers before Friday’s hearing, following which a decision will be taken as to whether the FBI will testify next week.