Updated at 4.15pm with Repubblika's reaction.
A magisterial inquiry has been concluded into whether the prime minister, the brigadier, and the crew of an Armed Forces patrol boat were responsible for the deaths of at least five migrants at sea.
Sources told Times of Malta that the “lengthy” document had been finished and was to be handed to the office of the Attorney General for examination on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Robert Abela is now expected to write to the AG on Wednesday to request a copy of the inquiry report or its main findings.
The inquiry, led by Magistrate Joe Mifsud, was triggered back in April after civil society NGO Repubblika filed police complaints about two separate incidents at sea.
They filed complaints against the army and prime minister of having been responsible for the death of migrants at sea in an incident over Easter weekend.
A second complaint concerned the alleged intentional sabotage of a rubber boat carrying asylum seekers by the crew of the P52 patrol boat.
Lawyer Herman Mula, representing the crew, is also expected to request a copy of the inquiry.
An NGO that regularly announces the presence of migrant boats in the Mediterranean, Alarm Phone, had claimed that migrants had been attacked at sea by Maltese personnel.
“The 70 people in distress near Malta called us moments ago and said: We have an emergency here. Malta military came and cut cable of motor. Water is in the boat. Malta military said ‘I leave you to die in the water. Nobody will come to Malta’,” the NGO tweeted.
However, fresh evidence submitted to the magistrate by Republikka once the inquiry had already started appeared to contradict the claims.
Repubblika's complaints had been filed on the NGO's behalf by its four lawyers, among them PN MP Jason Azzopardi. The other lawyers were Andrew Borg Cardona, Joe Ellis and Paul Borg Olivier.
A boat carrying more than 50 people was returned to Libya in April with five dead bodies aboard and another seven people missing, after it had spent days drifting at sea.
The return of the migrants to Libya, using private fishing boats commissioned by the Maltese government has also been the subject of controversy.
Speed of inquiry raises concerns
In a statement reacting to Times of Malta's report, Repubblika said on Wednesday afternoon that it was surprised that an inquiry into deaths at sea, possibly due to political and administrative decisions, had already been concluded.
“It is not normal for an inquiry of this magnitude to be finalised in such a short time. There are inquiries into the behaviour of politicians that have been pending for three years. This inquiry was ready in a month,” the NGO said.
Testimony and evidence recommended to the inquiry by the NGO, could not have possibly been gathered in such a short time, Repubblika said.
The NGO also noted that Prime Minister Robert Abela had requested a copy of the inquiry.
“It is clear that if he is going to be given a copy of the inquiry, then the inquiry should be published in full for its quality to be examined by all,” the NGO said.
Repubblika insisted that when the government and the armed forces repeatedly refused to reply to questions over what had caused the deaths at sea, it was their duty to request an inquiry.
“We hope that the Maltese institutions did all they could to bring justice for the 12 who lost their lives in our seas,”
This does not only count for the magistrate but for the police too, the NGO said.
Activity in the Valletta court house
Sources close to the inquiry said there was “a lot of activity” around the Valletta courthouse on Wednesday morning once word that the inquiry had been finalised got out.
Abela has argued that the criminal complaints meant that there were some who wanted him, the brigadier, and AFM crew to spend their lives in prison.
NGO Repubblika, on the other hand, had said they were being branded “traitors”, simply for wanting to get to the bottom of the death of at least five migrants.