More dramatic stories (and leaks) emerged on Thursday, in connection with the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder.
Among the major developments tonight:
- Keith Schembri is released without charge
- Cabinet hold an urgent late-night meeting
- Yorgen Fenech says he'll reveal all about people close to the PM
- Yorgen Fenech is denied a pardon
That's it for tonight
03:30am After a marathon six-hour Cabinet meeting, it's all over. The only significantly new thing we have learned is that Yorgen Fenech has been denied a pardon by the Cabinet.
Joseph Muscat has just left, and we will finish up here. Thank you for following along. Be sure to join us again tomorrow: the story is far from over.
Muscat on Fenech's letter to the President
03.14am Earlier we reported that Yorgen Fenech has written to the President asking for a pardon in exchange for information he has about people 'close' to the Prime Minister. He was asked about that at the news conference.
He said: "I leave it up to the president to decide on the constitutional merits of this letter."
No pardon for Fenech
03.04am Yorgen Fenech has been denied a pardon by Cabinet. Muscat says he left the room to allow ministers to decide without him present
Watch PM's news conference live
03.02am Joseph Muscat is giving a news conference.
News conference inside Castille
02:59am Ministers line up inside Castille ahead of a news conference.
Journalists and protesters kept apart
02:40am This is the scene at Castille right now. Our reporter Ivan Martin sent this video that shows the position of reporters, between the glass doors of Castille and the protesters determined to show their anger to the Prime Minister tonight.
Cabinet ends - chaos as journalists called in for news conference
02:39 Journalists have been called in for a news conference inside Castille. But there was a rush as protesters tried to come in with the reporters. The journalists are now locked in a doorway in a crowd.
Is this the longest Cabinet meeting ever?
02:32am The Cabinet has been meeting for around six hours now. We can't remember a ministerial meeting that has ever been this lengthy.
'It's outrageous' - Matthew Caruana Galizia
1.34am Matthew Caruana Galizia has given an emotional statement outside Castille where he is joined by protesters. He reveals the family of the murdered journalist have been given no information about the release of Keith Schembri. They found out, like many others, through a post on Facebook by the police.
"They're still protecting him. They're in there trying to work out either how to give Keith Schembri his job back or to help get him to a country where he can't be extradited back to Malta. It's completely outrageous."
He decried the lack of communication: "There's a complete information blackout. We know nothing. My family know nothing. Journalists know nothing. The people know nothing."
Protesters face off against police
1.24am Protesters and police are arguing at the barriers. Protesters are shouting 'barra' (out!) and 'Mafia'.
'Do the right thing Deputy PM'
1.10am The Deputy Prime Minister's mobile phone number has been shared on messaging apps tonight, with a message urging people to text him a plea to take action.
"Deputy Prime Minister. We’re depending on you to rise to the occasion in this moment of desperation. Please don’t let us down," it says.
Daphne's son among the protesters
1am Among the small group of protesters waiting in the early hours of the morning is Matthew Caruana Galizia, Daphne's son.
The group are shouting 'justice' to the people elected to govern Malta meeting inside. They arrived here in reaction to news that the Prime Minister's former chief of staff has been released without charge.
'An attack on democracy'
12.45am Civil society groups Repubblika and Occupy Justice, together with blogger Manuel Delia, have issued a joint statement.
Keith Schembri's release from custody is "incomprehensible," they say.
"This evening we have witnessed an attack on Maltese democracy and justice. The prime minister has exercised his disproportionate powers to protect his best friend if not himself as well from paying for crimes."
"We instead have a prime minister who rules over us by decree and his friends are allowed to steal, even kill, with impunity."
The activists will be gathering outside Castille on Friday at 6pm.
Meanwhile, it's 12.45am and an outraged crowd is still yelling outside as they wait for ministers to emerge from their cabinet meeting.
Four hours and counting
12.13am Cabinet ministers began arriving at Castille at 8pm. Four hours later, they are still inside the Office of the Prime Minister as journalists and protesters await outside. Thank you for all of you who are still staying with us as we enter the early hours of Friday morning.
What can we expect tomorrow?
While you're waiting to find out just what is going on in the Cabinet meeting. Here are three events we expect to happen tomorrow.
- Melvin Theuma, the alleged middleman in the murder case, will testify in court.
- A separate court will hear a constitutional case Yorgen Fenech filed late on Thursday. Mr Fenech wants the lead investigator in the murder case replaced, saying he is close to Mr Schembri.
- A protest will gather outside Castille at 6pm.
Schembri's 'heart of gold'
11.38pm: Labour official Ian Castaldi Paris uploads a post about his admiration for Keith Schembri, says the majority never doubted him.
'Kindly stay behind the barriers'
11.32pm At Castille, the press have been blocked from getting anywhere near the door. The protesters have also been cordoned off. Here's a police officer telling everyone to stay behind the barriers.
An impromptu protest
11.25pm Some protesters have gathered outside Castille. They're stunned by the evening's events.
But the night's not over yet: ministers are still inside and police have set up a barricade perimeter, forcing everyone - including the press - away from the OPM entrance.
Neville Gafa arrives
11.09pm: We've just spotted Neville Gafa arriving at Castille. He's the mysterious figure who the Prime Minister's office took seven months to explain what he actually does. He's also a Keith Schembri loyalist.
Earlier today, he posted this.
Police erect barricades outside Castille as protesters gather
11pm Police are erecting barricades outside Castille. Some protesters have started gathering. One of them explains why.
Another protest on Friday looming
9.42pm: Repubblika and Occupy Justice are outraged by the news that has emerged so far.
"We'll be waiting to see what the prime minister says tonight but it's clear we'll need to take to the streets again tomorrow," blogger Manuel Delia has told Times of Malta.
Caruana Galizia's son reacts
9.40pm: Matthew Caruana Galizia is sickened by the news which has just emerged:
"Yorgen Fenech confessed to murder. He shares a doctor with Keith Schembri, Muscat's chief of staff. That doctor confessed to passing messages from Schembri to Fenech while Fenech was in custody. Despite this damning evidence of criminality, the police released Schembri just now."
In a Facebook post, he lets rip: "Muscat has just instructed the police to release Schembri, his best friend, after his own doctor confessed to helping him cover up a murder."
Among the major developments tonight:
- Keith Schembri is released without charge
- Cabinet hold an urgent late-night meeting
- Yorgen Fenech says he'll reveal all about people close to the PM
Please refresh the page to get latest updates.
10.30pm Nationalist leader Adrian Delia reacts
Adrian Delia is giving his response to developments tonight. He says that the Cabinet should 'dismiss Joseph Muscat'. Any other decision would be putting the country at serious risk.
Dr Delia said the cabinet meeting, which was probably discussing the pardon to Yorgen Fenech, included the participation of the police commissioner and the attorney general. While the meeting was being held, Mr Schembri was released indicating that the meeting was discussing matters concerning him.
'Our democracy has collapsed'
10.09pm Former Nationalist leader Simon Busuttil reacts.
10.01pm Nationalist MEP David Casa is among the first to react to the breaking news that the Prime Minister's former chief of staff has been released without charge in connection with the Daphne murder investigation.
He has one word.
BREAKING: Keith Schembri released
9.53pm: Police have released a statement saying Keith Schembri has been released "after intensive investigations carried out in recent days about allegations made against him in connection with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia".
Cabinet ministers 'perverting the course of justice'
9.50pm Nationalist leader Adrian Delia reacts to that urgent cabinet meeting.
Keith Schembri released?
9.39pm: We are informed Cabinet members are being told Keith Schembri has been released from arrest and is not connected to Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder.
BREAKING: Fenech wants to reveal all about people 'close' to Joseph Muscat
9.32pm Yorgen Fenech wants a presidential pardon to reveal all he knows about people 'close' to the Prime Minister. He has named Chris Cardona, Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, who all stepped down this week.
Read the full story.
Yorgen Fenech leaves court
9.08pm Yorgen Fenech has just left court in a black Peugeot. We're about to update you with some major news so keep tuned in.
'We will inform you of the outcome'
8.37pm: Here's Home Affairs minister Michael Farrugia, arriving at Castille for the meeting earlier. He insisted there was nothing unusual about Cabinet meeting at 8.30pm.
"My work hours are 24/7," he said. "I attend meetings whenever they are needed. We will have the meeting and then inform you of the outcome," he told journalists.
BREAKING: Yorgen Fenech in court tonight
8.32pm: Yorgen Fenech is in court tonight. But not to face any charges. He is filing a constitutional case against the chief investigator of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case.
BREAKING: Cabinet meeting at Castille.
8pm: Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries were seen walking into Castille on Thursday night for an urgently-called Cabinet meeting.
The meeting is taking place at the end of another action-packed day brought about by the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder probe.
The details behind the meeting are not known.
Prime Minister cancels trip to Madrid
7.54pm: The Prime Minister was due to attend the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid next week. His spokesman has now confirmed that trip is cancelled.
"It is the Prime Minister’s responsibility to stay in Malta during these delicate hours and so Malta’s Ambassador on Climate Action Prof. Simone Borg will attend the COP21," he said.
CONFIRMED: Keith Schembri was present at security meetings
7.35pm: Two sources have now confirmed to us that Keith Schembri had been present during meetings between the Prime Minister and the Malta Security Services. This means he was privy to the details emerging from the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder probe.
Our sources say he stopped attending these meetings in recent months. The reason is not known.
We are informed that the relationship between Schembri and Fenech goes back years, culminating in their joint venture of secret company 17 Black.
Ten days of shocking revelations
7.30pm It's been ten days since Times of Malta first revealed a pardon was on the table for the alleged middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder. Here's a timeline of the dramatic events that have happened since.
In the next few hours, he said
7pm Spare a thought for the several journalists still camping outside the Prime Minister's office hoping to get the latest update from Joseph Muscat. The lights to his office are still on.
Eight hours ago, the Prime Minister told Jacob Borg he hoped investigations into the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder will be completed in the next few hours.
Fenech wants chief investigator changed
6.35pm: Through his lawyers, Yorgen Fenech has asked the police commissioner to remove chief homicide inspector Keith Arnaud from the investigation into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia on grounds he has "close ties" with Keith Schembri.
Among other claims, Fenech said Arnaud had constantly updated Schembri about the murder investigation in the past.
In a statement later, the police said there was "absolutely no basis" why Arnaud should be removed from the case, as evidenced by the results yielded so far.
"Insp. Arnaud has been carrying out the investigation from the outset, with the assistance of Europol, who remain involved in the investigation," the police said.
Delia asks President to address 'unprecedented situation'
6.11pm: If you missed his live update, earlier, here's a report of what Nationalist leader Adrian Delia had to say.
He again called on the Prime Minister to resign and said he had asked President George Vella to do everything permitted in law to address this “unprecedented situation”.
Book Council cancels ceremony, fires broadside
5.50pm: The National Book Council has just announced it has cancelled the 2019 National Book Prize Ceremony planned for December 9. It says it cannot be held under the heavy shadow of the Office of the Prime Minister having been implicated in the investigation for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
"These times are testament to the strength of the written word; the celebration of literature is given a stronger voice if we participate in the historical events unfolding nationally. The current national crisis deserves our undivided attention," it said, pointing out it hoped to announce the results in January.
Adrian Delia gives live update
5.42pm: Adrian Delia is explaining why he met President George Vella earlier.
Schembri still under arrest
5.20pm: We're informed that the former chief of staff Keith Schembri got police bail this morning but was re-arrested a few hours later.
Just to recap: Yorgen Fenech is insisting he gets a presidential pardon to tell all about Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder. He told investigators that Keith Schembri was the mastermind behind the murder.
We have not heard a word from Schembri or his lawyers.
London vigil for Daphne
4.59pm: The Maltese community is organising a vigil in London tonight as a mark of respect for Daphne Caruana Galizia. Civil society group Transparency International are spreading the word.
A waiting game
4.50pm: National and international media are waiting outside the Office of the Prime Minister in the hopes he will speak to them when he leaves.
The fallout from the murder investigation has drawn some harsh international headlines this week.
'Interrogate Muscat,' Busuttil demands
4.45pm: There's no love lost between the prime minister and the former opposition leader as evidenced by Simon Busuttil's latest tweet.
In reaction to the story we uploaded earlier that Muscat has known Yorgen Fenech was a suspect since May 2018, he says: "His resignation is no longer enough. It's now time for him to be interrogated by the Police about what he knew and when."
Adrian Delia due to speak
4.37pm. We'll hear soon from Nationalist leader Adrian Delia, about that visit to President George Vella. He's promised to go live on his Facebook page.
Daphne's family meet Attorney General
4.27pm: Yesterday we reported that Daphne Caruana Galizia's family had requested an urgent meeting with the Attorney General to clarify the situation around Yorgen Fenech's request for a presidential pardon in exchange for information. Daphne's son Paul has told us that that has happened. "I can confirm that we met this morning," he told our journalist Claire Caruana.
'Malta's moment of truth'
4.20pm: Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights tweets FT's hard-hitting editorial, which says: "The Maltese case is a reminder, too, that threats to rule of law come not just from “illiberal” regimes in central European members. They may emanate from the pernicious influence of organised crime, official corruption and money laundering across the 28-nation bloc."
PM cancels all engagements
4.15pm: Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was due to be at the opening of a private members club this evening. That won't happen now. In fact, we've been told by the Office of the Prime Minister that "he doesn't have any public events in the coming hours". Here's a picture of the invite to the opening of the Civil Service Sports Club.
Why did Adrian Delia visit the President?
4.02pm: Sources say Adrian Delia was visiting President George Vella to express his concern that the judicial process could be compromised over a potential conflict of interest regarding the Prime Minister’s role in granting the pardon to Melvin Theuma and deciding whether to grant a pardon to Yorgen Fenech.
No sign of Keith Schembri
4pm: It is unclear whether Keith Schembri is still under arrest after he was connected to the murder by Yorgen Fenech. Investigators have 48 hours to interrogate a suspect under arrest without pressing charges. After that, they must either release him without charges or on police bail, which allows them to release a person while monitoring them.
Leave your prejudices at home, says Glenn
3.38pm: Labour MP and close Muscat ally Glenn Bedingfield hopes that an EU Parliament delegation coming to Malta next week will be objective and not prejudiced.
"They will have the opportunity to witness first hand our institutions in action to guarantee the rule of law," he says in a tweet.
Adrian Delia visits President
3.30pm: Nationalist leader Adrian Delia has just left President George Vella's official residence at San Anton, our reporter Claire Caruana says. We haven't been told the purpose of the visit but he's expected to make a statement soon.
Labour MP Robert Abela speaks out
3.19pm: In a Facebook post published a few hours ago, Labour MP Robert Abela called for a "root and branch" reform of the party. He doesn't make any direct criticism of Joseph Muscat, who received unanimous backing by the party earlier this week.
"We need to reinstil discipline across the board from top to bottom." he said. He also calls for "a change that ensures the public authorities are autonomous of the government and free to make decisions."
Was original murder plan to shoot Daphne?
3.05pm: Reuters news agency has published some details claiming to come from Vince Muscat, one of the three men charged with Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder.
According to the report, when he got the contract to kill Ms Caruana Galizia, the plotters first decided to shoot her and bought a rifle with telescopic sights. The rifle was supplied from Italy. Alfred Degiorgio was to fire the weapon.
Journalist Stephen Grey, who has been investigating the case since its outset, also spoke to Pauline Muscat, Vince Muscat's wife.
“It’s a complete injustice that Theuma should give evidence against Vince when Vince was the one that led police to him and helped solve this case. He is the one who should be pardoned, not Melvin,” she said.
Ms Caruana Galizia's youngest son Paul describes it as a "horror story" and asks questions about Keith Schembri.
PD questions pardon for middleman
3pm: You'll remember that alleged murder middleman Melvin Theuma has been granted a pardon in exchange for what he knows about the assassination. Partit Demokratiku has raised some questions about that now.
"The pardon was given while Keith Schembri was still chief of staff. Was it pre-arranged to pin all of the blame on Yorgen Fenech, to exonerate Keith Schembri?"
President drops London trip
2.47: President George Vella was due to go to London next week. We've now been told he has cancelled that trip amid the fallout from the murder investigation.
"A decision has been taken by the Office of the President to postpone the President’s visit to London in view of local developments," a spokesman said.
Will Fenech be given a pardon?
2.30pm: Word out there is that murder suspect Yorgen Fenech will not get a presidential pardon to reveal all over the assassination. The Prime Minister is still waiting for advice from the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner before deciding.
The Office of the Prime Minister has denied rumours that Joseph Muscat is about to give a news conference.
Muscat knew about potential mastermind
1.30pm: Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was aware Yorgen Fenech was a potential suspect in Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder around 15 months ago.
Peter Omtzigt, the Dutch MP and rapporteur on the assassination of Caruana Galizia in the Council of Europe says this is a very worrying development.
€150,000 to make the hit
11.20am: Multiple sources have told us that Yorgen Fenech allegedly paid middleman Melvin Theuma €150,000 to distribute to three men to carry out Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder.
The figure was mentioned several times during recordings of phone calls between the two men and was also cited during separate interrogations
Is Keith Schembri involved?
9am: News broke late yesterday that Yorgen Fenech named the prime minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri as the mastermind behind the plot to kill journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, but investigators are treating his claims with caution.
All this drama is taking place two days after Keith Schembri and Minister Konrad Mizzi stepped down from their posts, while Chris Cardona apparently "suspended" himself as Economy Minister
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