Shadow minister for justice Jason Azzopardi breached parliamentary privilege in comments he made about former prime minister Joseph Muscat, the Speaker ruled on Tuesday.
But the PN MP said he would not retract his words which linked Muscat to the Caruana Galizia murder plot, saying he planned to summon several people, including prisoners, "to show who is telling the truth".
The complaint was made last week after Azzopardi alleged in an adjournment speech in the House on June 24 that Muscat had called a snap election in 2017 because he was aware of the plot to kill journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Speaker Anġlu Farrugia announced the decision in a ruling delivered at the start of Tuesday’s parliamentary sitting.
The Opposition MP had claimed that evidence which emerged in court on that same day ‘proved’ that those plotting to kill Caruana Galizia knew of the June 2017 snap election seven months before. This was another “damning indictment” against the former Prime Minister, Azzopardi said.
Azzopardi said he was privy to other “facts” on the case but could not speak for the time being. He hoped the facts would emerge in court in the coming months.
Muscat vehemently denied the claims, saying these were a "senseless fantasy" fabricated by the Opposition MP.
In his ruling, the speaker said Azzopardi’s claims were in breach of the Standing Orders as these state that no MP can attribute bad intentions to another parliamentarian.
The Speaker urged MPs to take a more measured approach in their speeches.
No retraction by Azzopardi
Farrugia asked the MP if he would be retracting his remarks, but Azzopardi said he had no such intention.
“I cannot withdraw it as I have said such things outside [parliament]. I invite the House to summon the privileges committee to decide on the matter,” Azzopardi said.
The committee has the power to recommend that MPs are admonished, fined or taken to court.
In a Facebook post published later, Azzopardi said that he planned to appeal the decision and would be summoning "tens of witnesses" once the matter reached the privileges committee, including some who were currently behind bars at Corradino Correctional Facility.
"Then we'll see who's telling the truth" he wrote.
Muscat reacted with a Facebook post of his own.
"He can summon hundreds of witnesses," Muscat wrote, "because the lie he told, remains a lie".
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