Updated 1.15pm, adds Cassola's statement

Joseph Muscat has accused “the institutions” of crumbling to pressure as former roads chief Fredrick Azzopardi faces prosecution for environmental crimes.

Taking to Facebook, the former Prime Minister said the time had come to speak out against those in public office who were bowing to such pressure “from the usual people”.

Independent candidate Arnold Cassola had filed a criminal complaint against Azzopardi after Infrastructure Malta defied a stop and compliance order by the Environment and Resources Authority over illegal works at Wied Qirda in Żebbuġ.

Muscat warned in his Facebook post that “we too have a voice”, and it is the voice of thousands who should not be taken for fools because they have thus far remained silent.

'Someone must be held responsible'

He said the “rushed or panicked” decision to prosecute Azzopardi for simply doing his job seems to have overlooked the fact that there are “obvious legal points” that nullify the case.

“This mistaken decision carries consequences. Someone must be held responsible.”

While saying he always defended the institutions as prime minister, Muscat said he now feels his job is to defend citizens from institutions that crumble after a bit of pressure.

“To be clear, I am not referring to the Labour government, but to individuals who rightly have the autonomy to take decisions."

He said people were being “crucified” for the sake of a “tick box exercise” that simply dumps the decision on the courts.

“Then, months and years later, the person walks free. But in the interim, they are crucified."

Muscat fired a similar warning shot in response to a Times of Malta editorial last month about the hospitals' scandal.

The former prime minister is under investigation for suspicious payments received from a Swiss company linked to the hospitals' deal.

Muscat insisted that “given the evidence,” any further steps against him would simply be “for the sake of ticking the box of wasting a couple years of my life”.

The former prime minister was last year criticised by a public inquiry for enabling the culture of impunity in the lead-up to journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia's assassination. 

ONE chairman weighs in

ONE chairman Jason Micallef also took to Facebook in defence of Azzopardi, questioning why he was being prosecuted.

Micallef expressed his dismay at the prosecution, saying he doubts any other CEO of a government agency has ever been prosecuted for something similar.

All who ruined Malta should be brought to book - Cassola

In a statement later, Cassola vowed he will not stop at ensuring that those who have ruined Malta's environment, reputation and honour are brought to book.

“The man who has allowed our country to be robbed by Electrogas, Vitals, AUM and Pilatus, whilst he continued to befriend a known suspected assassin, should hide his face in shame rather than appeal to the thousands of people who, he states, follow him.

“Justice must be done not only with Joseph Muscat but also with all those whom he used to rape our country environmentally and financially,” he said.

Cassola added that a true socialist should appeal to the masses to safeguard the common good of the Maltese people and not only when a relative of his is involved in misdeeds.

Muscat, he said, failed to say that Azzopardi is married to his cousin.

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