A Repubblika activist involved in the organisation of protests at Valletta’s Great Seige monument ever since the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia declared in court on Friday there was “no specific end date” to the protests and they would be held until their aim was achieved.
Notary Robert Aquilina was testifying in the constitutional case filed by blogger and fellow activist Manuel Delia against the government over an alleged breach of his fundamental right to free expression, after the makeshift memorial to Ms Caruana Galizia was dismantled some 20 times since her assassination in October 16, 2017.
It was the shock of that fateful afternoon, when the journalist was murdered in a powerful car bomb metres away from her family home, that spurred on Dr Aquilina to join others in an attempt to block the “dangerous path embarked upon by our country”.
A series of public gatherings and protests started on a monthly basis, marking the anniversary of Ms Caruana Galizia’s assassination, to raise awareness about the perceived crisis.
Citing from a speech by former Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri on the rule of law, Dr Aquilina said that he and fellow activists were protesting because they believed Malta was experiencing “a rule of delinquency”.
Asked specifically why they had chosen the Great Siege Monument as the centre of their activities, Dr Aquilina explained that although at first it had been a “spontaneous” choice, it was later affirmed on account of the fact the monument stood in front of the law courts and occupied a very prominent spot.
The symbolic value of the monument, representing faith, civilisation and valour, was a secondary consideration, Dr Aquilina clarified, adding that the display of flowers, candles and pictures was not intended as a sign of mourning but as a “sign of protest”.
“We are not supporters of Daphne Caruana Galizia, as sometimes erroneously stated in the media - we do admire her writings and work in this regard - but our main aim is to achieve justice over her murder,” Dr Aquilina explained.
“We shall only stop when our wish is realised,” the witness continued, when asked directly by Mr Justice Joseph Zammit McKeon whether the group had any specific end date in mind.
Maria Grazia Cassar recalled how the NGO had, back in 2010, sought approval of then Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco, to restore the Great Siege Monument.
The works had been sponsored by FIMBANK at a cost of €9,500, and the restoration of the Great Siege monument was under the surveillance of the Valletta Rehabilitation Project.
Asked about the flowers, candles and other items placed by people at the monument, Ms Cassar said these did not damage the structure.
“Was there a discussion during meetings of the NGO and was this fact minuted?” asked Chris Cilia, on behalf of the Public Cleansing Department.
Ms Cassar explained that she had discussed the monument with acquaintances from Occupy Justice in her personal capacity and not officially as President of Din l-Art Ħelwa.
The organisation had not taken a position as to the fact that this monument was being used as a memorial or protest symbol, the witness concluded.
Friday’s sitting came to an end with submissions in respect of an earlier application by former Labour Minister Joseph Brincat who claimed the right to intervene in this suit.
“Just as others claim a right to freedom of expression and protest, I myself too, as a citizen, have the right to safeguard that national monument,” Dr Brincat insisted.
“Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, a basic rule in physics.”
However, Mr Delia’s lawyer, Therese Comodini Cachia, rebutted that Dr Brincat had no direct, personal interest in the matter.
“Is the Great Siege monument Dr Joseph Brincat’s property? His is a public interest sufficiently safeguarded by the AG,” Dr Comodini Cachia argued, adding that if he were to be allowed to join the suit “a hundred other might likewise ask to intervene.”
The case continues in January.
Lawyers Eve Borg Costanzi and Jason Azzopardi were counsel to Mr Delia. Lawyer Victoria Buttigieg represented the AG’s office.