Investigations by the Maltese government into the death of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia “are, and always have been, free from any political interference,” Justice Minister Owen Bonnici has told the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.
The minister made his comments in an open letter to Dunja Mijatovic, in response to concerns she expressed earlier this week.
In the letter – dated November 27 - he said the government regretted "the constant attempts to discredit the investigations which have been going on for the last two years.”
To back up this point, he reminded Ms Mijatovic that the Maltese government and police had benefited from the input of the FBI in the initial stages of the investigation and were in constant contact with Europol, which has access to the investigation.
“The developments in the investigation over the last weeks confirm its independence," he added.
The Justice Minister also defended the “bold step of offering a pardon to a suspect [alleged middleman Melvin Theuma] who would provide credible evidence on the way in which the murder was planned and commissioned.”
“The extraordinary measure does not constitute interference of the executive in the investigation, but it was a measure which enabled a breakthrough for the investigators," the letter said.
"The measure meant that the executive was also obliged to give due account to the public for its decision to have recourse to such an extraordinary measure.”
Responding to concerns
In her letter on November 26, Ms Mijatovic expressed concern about 'political interference'.
“I welcome the establishment of an independent public inquiry into the murder and take note of the important steps taken by the Maltese authorities in this investigation.
"However, I am seriously concerned by recent allegations of political interference in the investigation.”
She also called on Prime Minister Muscat’s government to ensure that the investigation was fully independent to bring long-overdue justice to Ms Caruana Galizia's family and Maltese society.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story, saying that the reply letter was written by Joseph Muscat, has been amended.