A request by one of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s suspected killers to suspend pre-trial criminal proceedings was refused by a court on Wednesday afternoon.
George Degiorgio had requested an interim measure pending a final decision in a separate action challenging phone tapping laws.
The court’s refusal means an initial hearing scheduled for October 31 concerning the bill of indictment issued against Mr Degiorgio, his brother Alfred and Vincent Muscat will go ahead.
Ms Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb explosion exactly two years ago, on October 16 2017.
What Mr Degiorgio's lawyer argued
On Wednesday, Mr Degiorgio’s lawyer William Cuschieri argued that police had told his client that they had caught him thanks to phone intercept data.
One of those intercepted calls had allegedly been played out to Mr Degiorgio by an inspector during interrogation, Dr Cuschieri said.
However, prosecutors had not presented any recordings or phone transcripts during the compilation of evidence stage, or presented any member of the Malta Security Service – responsible for the alleged phone tap - he said.
A prosecuting inspector had allegedly told Mr Degiorgio during an interrogation that if he had not talked over the phone, “we would not have arrested you and the others”.
“George perhaps you are aware that we tap your calls,” the inspector had allegedly told the suspect.
Dr Cuschieri argued that it was a “join-the-dots” exercise by the police and that he and his client were “in total darkness”.
How prosecutors countered
Deputy attorney general Victoria Buttigieg countered that Mr Degiorgio’s latest action was “nothing but a delaying tactic,” having been through “some nine such cases, filed before different courts” over the past months.
For the interim measure to be granted, an applicant had to prove that there was an obvious right that had to be protected and irremediable damage if the measure was not upheld, said Dr Buttigieg.
“How can you attack something that does not exist in the records of the case. This goes against logic. Totally nonsensical,” argued the prosecution lawyer.
“This amounts to an abuse of the interim measure procedure and the Court should provide accordingly against such abuse,” said Dr Buttigieg, pointing out further that “it was not true that the arrests had rested upon the telephone intercepts,” referring to the findings of the FBI who had assisted in the murder investigation.
The Degiorgios’ lawyer had filed “over 100 preliminary objections against the bill of indictment” pointed out lawyer Jason Azzopardi, appearing for the Caruana Galizia family.
“That was something he had every right to do in terms of law,” said Dr Azzopardi. “But this request for an interim measure is factually and legally incorrect. He knocked at the wrong door,” stressing that Dr Cuschieri could request removal of those intercepts before the criminal courts.
What the court decided
In its 13-page long decree, the court concluded that the proceedings that Mr Degiorgio wanted to suspend were the same ones which could guarantee his fair hearing before an impartial and independent court on this same matter.
The court also noted that Mr Degiorgio’s lawyer could have raised objections to the constitutional validity of phone tapping laws “at an early stage of the compilation [of evidence]”. However, Mr Degiorgio had not done so “for reasons known to him.”
He could still bring forward his claim since this particular subject matter was not time-barred in terms of law, said the court.
Finally, the court also noted that the request for this interim measure had only been put forward by one of the accused, in spite of the fact that his claim would also affect the interests of the other two co-accused.
The court could not presume that the other two co-accused also wanted to suspend the criminal proceedings.