Updated 5.15 with plans for Repubblika protest.
A judge has ordered the police commissioner to take criminal action against author Mark Camilleri for publishing thousands of messages between Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar and Yorgen Fenech, in breach of a court ban.
Transcripts of some 2,200 WhatsApp messages published on Tuesday revealed an intimate relationship between the politician and the businessman at a time when Cutajar was publicly dismissing calls for an investigation of suspected corruption linked to Fenech.
They also include a reference to a gift he had given her at the time.
The morning after those chats were published on Camilleri’s website, Cutajar’s lawyers filed an urgent application before the criminal courts requesting an investigation.
They argued that the publication of those messages breached a ban imposed by the court in criminal proceedings where Fenech is being accused of complicity in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
A decree issued by Madam Justice Edwina Grima in November 2021 had banned all typed and electronic data in Fenech’s case file.
In their application, the lawyers argued that if those chats were taken from the records of the criminal case against Fenech, then Camilleri had breached laws prohibiting the publication of such documents.
Such transcripts were solely in the State’s possession to be used for the purpose of preventing and investigating crimes. Allowing their dissemination for any other purpose extraneous to the Caruana Galizia murder case amounted to a breach of Cutajar’s fundamental rights to respect for private family life and personal correspondence.
Cutajar’s lawyers also delivered a legal letter to the Attorney General asking her to inform the court about the publication which they claimed to be in breach of article 517 of the Criminal Code.
They urged the AG to act without delay especially since the matter concerned the fundamental rights of third parties that were being manifestly trampled upon.
The AG acted promptly on that letter and later on Wednesday, Madam Justice Grima ordered the police commissioner to investigate whether those messages were the same as those exhibited in Fenech’s case file and whether they were protected by the ban.
The Police Commissioner reported back to the judge that investigations had confirmed that Camilleri’s publication had breached the November 2021 ban.
In light of that information, the court ordered the Police Commissioner to take criminal action against Camilleri before the Magistrates’ Courts for contempt of court.
Speaking to Times of Malta, Camilleri said that as of 2.30pm on Thursday, the police had not contacted him. He also said he would not be removing the chats from his website.
Earlier on Thursday, Camilleri, who lives abroad, wrote that he is "out of reach" of the police.
Writing in his blog, Camilleri said that his equipment is safe and he does not need a team of lawyers to tell him what to do.
“I’m free to write my thoughts without any effective repercussions and I can recollect my thoughts and think about what has just happened in peace. Bliss," he said.
'Unequal and discriminatory application of the law' - Repubblika
Soon after the order by the judge was issued, rule of law group Repubblika said it would hold a protest in solidarity with Camilleri in Republic Street, Valletta on Friday at 6pm.
It said it was surprised by the alacrity of the police and the attorney general in acting against whoever dared confront their political friends.
"The unequal and discriminatory application of the law is abusive and a serious breach of the rule of law, more so when the law is being used to punish someone who had come up with evidence to defend himself in libel proceedings filed after he said the truth," the NGO said.
What Mark Camilleri had said about Rosianne Cutajar was in the public interest as it involved the behaviour of a government MP and her attitude to corruption, the NGO claimed.