The public inquiry into whether the State could have prevented the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia will be concluded by July 15, the judges presiding it said on Thursday.

The inquiry is presided by retired judge Michael Mallia together with former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino and Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro.

Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in October 2017 and the government gave in to pressure to hold the inquiry in July 2019. Then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had initially resisted the calls, saying that the Attorney General had advised against holding an inquiry during court proceedings against three men charged with the journalist's murder. 

The government, however, gave the go-ahead after the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in June 2019 overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for the government of Malta to establish “at the earliest opportunity, within three months, an independent public inquiry in order to ensure fulfilment of its obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights”.

There was initial disagreement between the Caruana Galizia family and the government on the composition of the inquiry board and the terms of reference of the inquiry. Following a meeting between the family and Muscat in October 2019, changes were made by the government.

Among other things, the original terms of reference said the inquiry would look into whether the State had effective deterrents and criminal investigative powers in place. It also laid out that the inquiry would look into whether the State was able to avoid a de facto state of impunity through the frequent occurrence of unsolved crimes.

But the terms were then widened, with the inquiry asked to also establish whether the State “caused” a real immediate risk to Carauna Galizia’s life. 

The inquiry's sittings started in December 2019 when the members of the family were called to testify.

The inquiry has since heard scores of witnesses, including investigators, politicians and journalists. The inquiry heard accounts of the murder scene and how the journalist had been threatened and hounded prior to the murder.  Investigators also described how the murder investigation proceeded. The inquiry also questioned witnesses on possible motives for the assassination.

Muscat appeared before the inquiry for some five hours, starting his testimony by lashing out at the inquiry board for having, in his view, gone beyond their terms of reference.  

Former energy minister, Konrad Mizzi refused to answer questions, while insisting he had no involvement in the murder. 

Former chief of staff Keith Schembri also testified, admitting that he knew Yorgen Fenech was a person of interest in the murder around one year before his arrest.

Murder plot middleman Melvin Theuma spoke about how Yorgen Fenech was fed information by both Schembri and investigator Silvio Valletta.

In March, the inquiry heard that Yorgen Fenech donated money to the Nationalist Party and was also given stories about the party to leak to rival media, according to former PN executive Pierre Portelli. 

Last December, Prime Minister Robert Abela insisted that with the inquiry already having been given a time extension because of COVID-19, it should  conclude its proceedings by the new deadline of December 15.

But the inquiry judges responded that they were prepared to carry on, even without compensation, until they were satisfied that all work had been satisfactorily carried out.

The judges declared that they would not accept any undue pressure or interference curtailing their brief.

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