One of the men facing trial over the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, is challenging as unconstitutional the law empowering the Security Service to tap phone calls.
George Degiorgio on Wednesday filed a constitutional application in the wake of a judicial protest touching upon the same subject matter two months ago.
In August, Mr Degiorgio and his brother Alfred, a co-accused, had called on the authorities to produce evidence of telephone intercepts that the prosecution had “bragged about” throughout the compilation of evidence.
The Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police were called to produce those intercepts, which had allegedly been crucial in targeting them and the third suspect, Vincent Muscat, linking them to the explosion that killed Caruana Galizia on October 16, 2017.
Throughout the murder compilation, the prosecution made reference to snippets from the alleged telephone intercepts, spurring sensational reporting by the media, lawyer William Cuschieri said in the application. Yet no recordings or transcripts were ever presented to prove the existence of the said intercepts or to prove that the intercepts had been effected under a warrant, duly issued under the authority of the minister in terms of law.
Whilst not addressing these concerns, the the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner had countered that any such issues were to be raised before the Criminal Court rather than put in any civil or constitutional forum.
But Mr Degiorgio on Wednesday filed a fresh application challenging the constitutional validity of the Security Services Act which empowers the head of Security Services to effect telephone intercepts under a warrant issued by the relative minister.
This law lacked “detailed and specific regulations regarding the discretion exercised by the Security Service Head or other authorities,” when requesting a warrant, and there was nothing to safeguard against possible abuse, Mr Degiorgio argued through his lawyer.
Such a law placed the Attorney General, the Police Commissioner and the Security Service Head “above the courts,” denying the judiciary the power to judge whether the intercepts had been obtained under a warrant and hence legally.
Breach of rights
All this amounted to a breach of Mr Degiorgio's right to private and family life as well as denying him the right to a fair hearing by running counter to the basic principles of equality of arms and the presumption of innocence.
Not only could the intercepts be obtained without judicial authorization but worse still, article 18 of the said law excludedevidence on this matter during court proceedings.
Mr Degiorgio therefore requested that any illegally obtained evidence be removed from the records of the case and adequate compensation be given to him for the breach of rights.