Updated 2pm with David Casa's reply
The government “vehemently condemned” the spirit in which PN MEP David Casa wrote to the vice-president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans urging him to “urgently address” calls for a public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
“Mr Casa’s letter, which effectively implies that a member of the Maltese government was responsible for the murder, is entirely baseless, fraught with suppositions and innuendos, and fails to provide any logical or credible justification or evidential basis,” ministers Owen Bonnici and Helena Dalli said in a reply.
On Monday, MEP David Casa pounced on allegations by the Daphne Project reports that a man once suspected of fuel smuggling called Minister Chris Cardona and one of the men accused in Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder.
He said it was becoming “painfully clear” why the government was resisting calls for a public inquiry into the murder.
In a letter to Mr Timmermans, Mr Casa expressed “great concern” about the claims that Dr Cardona “met with the low-level assassins... both before as well as after the assassination”.
According Dr Bonnici and Dr Dalli, the letter was nothing more than an attempt to cause damage to the minister's reputation driven by a purely partisan agenda.
“The government protests the grave allegations, especially considering the efforts by the Maltese authorities to completely investigate the murder,” they reacted in a letter to Mr Timmermans, adding that these efforts led to the “swift arraignment” of three people.
The ministers called on Mr Casa to pass on any proof: “Mr Casa is once again being encouraged to do his duty as a Maltese citizen and provide the authorities with all the evidence he may have in his possession… the government holds that his recourse to the European Commission is totally unwarranted and is intended solely to put himself in the limelight to the detriment of the judicial process.”
His “political posturing” did not serve to ensure that justice was done. Instead, it undermined the judicial process, they added.
Mr Casa followed up his letter on Monday with a second to Mr Timmermans on Wednesday, which was co-signed by four other MEPs.
In that letter, the five MEPs urged Mr Timmermans and EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová to keep a close eye on the investigation into Ms Caruana Galizia's murder.
In their letter, ministers Bonnici and Dalli also referred to the call for a public inquiry made by the Caruana Galizia family’s lawyers.
The call was made in the context of an alleged breach of Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights, and was currently the subject of correspondence between the lawyers and the Attorney General.
Given that the process was ongoing, it was premature to comment about this, the ministers said.
They added that it was meanwhile “entirely incorrect” to assert that Malta has objected to the inquiry being held by the Council of Europe tasked to Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt.
What Malta objected to was Mr Omtizgt’s involvement, because he had, in the past, been considered to have manipulated evidence in an inquiry led by him for the purpose of attracting media attention.
'Weak attempt' - Casa
Mr Casa hit back at the ministers’ letter to the European Commission, calling it a “weak” attempt to defend their colleague.
"To date, all we know is that which has been published by the media - facts that put a bad light on one of Muscat’s closest ministers. These allegations further highlight the importance of having a public independent inquiry," he said.
Mr Casa said Dr Dalli and Dr Bonnici were too fast to believe one of their colleagues and if they really wanted to know all the facts about the murder and the role of the state, they would have supported his appeal for a public independent inquiry.
"Muscat’s ministers’ attitude continues to confirm that they have a lot to hide," he said.