Friday was another day of dramatic events in Malta, which captured the international headlines.
And it's a wrap:
We know everyone’s clamouring for constant updates about this dramatic case, but some of us are craving some rest, especially after last night’s marathon session. So that’s it for this live blog for today.
If you’re just catching up, these were some of the highlights of the day:
- Joseph Muscat has informed his associated he intends to step down imminently
- Murder suspect Yorgen Fenech casually walked around in Valletta
- Cabinet heard of attempts to pin Daphne's murder on Chris Cardona
- Thousands have protested again in Valletta
Scicluna takes on Giegold
7.50pm: German MEP and frequent Malta government critic Sven Giegold couldn't hold back his delight as news emerged that Joseph Muscat was planning an exit. But his comment that Edward Scicluna should also assume responsibility was met with aplomb by the Finance Minister who tweeted
Keith Schembri speaks up
7.30pm: We've finally tracked down the outgoing chief of staff. Keith Schembri has just told Ivan Martin he would never do anything to implicate any colleagues in wrongdoing, on the contrary he has always protected them.
He's referring to claims that a "frame up" was being concocted to link Chris Cardona with Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder.
A noisy protest in Valletta
6.55pm: The sixth protest in 10 days is being held in Valletta, with people insisting that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat should resign. The mood is jovial compared to past protests after it emerged this morning Dr Muscat is planning to quit. Some protesters are reportedly handing out Monopoly 'Get out of jail free' cards.
Chris Cardona feared murder frame-up
6.50pm Times of Malta reports another stunning development. It reveals that Cabinet ministers raised concerns last night that Keith Schembri and Yorgen Fenech could have been plotting to "frame" Economy Minister Chris Cardona for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia .
Government denies Cabinet split over Joseph Muscat
6.42pm: The government denies that the Cabinet or some members of the Cabinet had expressed a lack of confidence in the prime minister, as claimed in a section of the online media.
Such reports were "a total fabrication" the government says in a statement. Nothing of this kind was even raised in Thursday's Cabinet meeting.
The government says Dr Muscat remains focused on the country's priority to close one of the most serious criminal cases. Only then will be speak about the way ahead.
Valletta shops report 'worst Black Friday' because of politics
6.25pm The GRTU reports that Valletta shop owners had reported that this was their worst Black Friday to date, with noticeably very few shoppers making it to the capital.
"As expected the current political situation led to consumers avoiding Valletta and choosing other localities as an alternative," it said.
However, hundreds of others were immune to the dramatic developments and tried to land a bargain.
Fenech complains about his police bail conditions
6.15pm Back in court, lawyers for Yorgen Fenech launched a complaint over his bail conditions, arguing he had been arrested and released several times over the past week, but the law required a period of effective release.
The presiding judge called for Mr Fenech to be in the courtroom. The complaint was then dropped after the lawyers agreed that it would be too dangerous for Mr Fenech to return when a demonstration was under way in Valletta.
Neville Gafa arrives at Keith Schembri's house
5.38pm Greetings from Keith Schembri's house in Mellieħa, where our reporter Claire Caruana has been trying to track him down. We have reason to be believe he is there but haven't confirmed it.
Neville Gafa, who is a close friend of Mr Schembri, and an official in the Office of the Prime Minister has arrived. He told us Schembri wasn't there.
Keith Schembri still in Malta
5.15pm: Dozens of messages have reached us claiming Keith Schembri had fled Malta. This is not true, according to multiple sources.
Malta's most-wanted casually strolling down the street
4.56pm Yorgen Fenech is interviewed by journalists and chased by protesters down the streets of Valletta. The chief suspect in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia was not protected by security.
Don't gather outside party HQ, Labour says
4.45pm: The Labour Party has issued a statement urging supporters not to show up in front of its party headquarters or other places, as is being requested on social media platforms.
"The Prime Minister has made it clear he's focused on the needs of the country and to ensure that one of the most serious crimes is resolved under his watch."
Yorgen Fenech chased out of court as people shout 'mafia'
4.36pm: Unbelievable scenes outside of court today. Yorgen Fenech "walked out of court, lit a cigarette and then faced the crowd", an eyewitness said.
Yorgen Fenech speaks
4.20pm It's almost surreal - Yorgen Fenech has just walked out of court and is casually walking to his vehicle with his lawyers chased by dozens of reporters.
"I fear for my life, I'm ready to go all the way for justice to prevail and the truth to come out," he says.
PM 'blackmailed' over presidential pardon
Joseph Muscat has just released a statement saying that he's reported to police a message suggesting he was blackmailed over the presidential pardon.
He said he received a message saying that unless he advised in favour of a presidential pardon, a testimony would be given by Yorgen Fenech to implicate that he had two telephone calls with him months ago.
"No such calls were ever made. This can easily be verified," it said. The Prime said his last encounter with Mr Fenech was in February 2019.
"The Prime Minister refused an initial request for pardon by Yorgen Fenech following advice by the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner. The Cabinet refused a second request under similar advice after the Prime Minister withdrew from the meeting."
Yorgen Fenech court update
4pm: Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri tells court that Keith Schembri was never arraigned despite a lot of evidence against. Not only was he not charged, but a police statement was issued saying he was released.
"There are tapes and recording which mention Keith Schembri and a photo of him hugging Melvin Theuma at Castille and a letter mentioning Keith Schembri as the person who paid him and who commissioned him. This is shameful and scary," she says.
3.37pm Back to court now where Yorgen Fenech's lawyers are still arguing that the Daphne murder investigation should be stopped while Keith Arnaud is investigating.
"The prejudice is irreversible," his lawyer Marion Camilleri argues over Arnaud's alleged links with Keith Schembri. "This is a murder case which carries life in jail. It can never be remedied. Yorgen Fenech cannot have peace of mind that he will have a fair hearing."
The business magnate's legal team say they want an investigation by someone who is independent. They asked the Police Commissioner to substitute Arnaud but he refused, they say.
Simon Busuttil reacts to Muscat news
Here's former Nationalist leader Simon Busuttil's response to news of Joseph Muscat's imminent departuere.
Journalists' lobby complain over reporters detained in Castille
3.29pm Meanwhile, the journalists’ lobby has written to the Standards Commissioner and filed a judicial protest against the prime minister, after the press was detained inside a room at Castille following a 3am press conference on Friday morning.
Reporters were kept inside a hall against their will by unidentified people who obstructed exit doors.
The IĠM slammed this “illegal and undemocratic behaviour” and demanded assurances that it would not happen again.
Malta Chamber doubles down
3.27pm The Malta Chamber had already issued a strong statement about the current situation a few days ago.
Now they’ve doubled down: the government, they say, “has been tarnished by a long and heavy shadow it cannot shake or shrug off.”
“On behalf of all well-spirited and ethical businesses in Malta, the Chamber calls on the Prime Minister to do the right thing, and ensure that justice is delivered as soon as possible.”
“Unfortunately, the accusations that have been levelled against people in the highest echelons of power, prevent the office of the Prime Minister from delivering on this tall order, and this is raising doubts in the entire system. A way out must be found. Not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done and immediately. Only in such a way will we assure the much needed stability and business confidence for the country."
Fenech court update
News now from court, where our reporter Matthew Xuerub is following developments. Yorgen Fenech is attempting to have the investigation stopped because of the alleged links between the Prime Minister's former chief of staff and investigating officer Keith Arnaud.
Here's a few lines on what's happening there:
- Mr Fenech wanted the application to be heard behind closed doors. That was denied unless the evidence impinges on the murder investigation.
- Mr Fenech's lawyers want footage they say show Inspector Arnaud warning him to be responsible about who he mentions.
- His legal team say Inspector Arnaud asked Keith Schembri for a job for his wife
"How can we have peace of mind?" his defence lawyer Marion Camilleri said. "How can he be interogated, investigated and charged in court by a person who has such close ties with Keith Schembri."
We'll come back to court later.
Anti-corruption protest to forge ahead
3.03pm The protest tonight in Valletta will go ahead as planned. That's from one of the organisers, rule of law NGO Repubblika. Will you be attending?
Labour postpone mass meeting
2.56pm There won't be a mass meeting for Labour supporters this Sunday, according to the party's media arm One News.
BREAKING: YORGEN FENECH APPEARS IN COURT
2.50pm Yorgen Fenech has just turned up to court with his legal team. He is trying to stop the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation under inspector Keith Arnaud.
Will Labour's mass meeting go ahead?
2.40pm Labour was due to hold a mass meeting to rally support for Joseph Muscat on Sunday. Now that we expect him to quit before then, will the rally happen? There has been criticism about holding such a rally in a time of turmoil for the country.
Labour leader election in January
2.29pm Deputy Leader Chris Fearne is likely to step in to Dr Muscat's shoes initially. Then in January there'll be an election, we understand. But who is in the running for the top spot?
Some of the likely contenders include Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne, MEP Miriam Dalli and Transport Minister Ian Borg. Previously, Konrad Mizzi, who briefily served as party deputy leader, had been in the running. However, he resigned as minister earlier this week.
BREAKING: JOSEPH MUSCAT TO QUIT IMMINENTLY
2.19pm Joseph Muscat is to quit imminently, Times of Malta understands. He will make the announcement after Yorgen Fenech is arraigned, if it happens, later today.
Daphne's family want Joseph Muscat out
2.15pm There's mounting pressure on the prime minister to go. This time from the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
In a statement they criticised the decision to release Keith Schembri, the "Prime Minister's close personal friend and former chief of staff".
Here's what they said:
"We are dismayed to see that Schembri was released under the watch of the Prime Minister, who continues to play judge, jury, and executioner in an assassination investigation that so far implicates three of his closest colleagues. This travesty of justice is shaming our country, ripping our society apart, and it is degrading us. It cannot continue any longer. We urge the Prime Minister to step aside and let an unconflicted deputy take over.If the Prime Minister has the interests of justice and Malta at heart,then he should do so immediately. Our country is more important than his career.
Delia renews call for Muscat to go
1.54pm Another day, another Facebook live broadcast from Nationalist party leader Adrian Delia.
In his message, Dr Delia once again called on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to resign and "restore normalcy in our country". Dr Delia was also reacting to a court decision that ruled that three ministers would be facing a criminal inquiry over their involvement in the Vitals hospital privatization deal. Dr Delia appealed for these hospitals to "be returned to the public".
1.44pm It's been just over two weeks since the alleged middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder plot was arrested. Since then - November 14th - there have been multiple arrests, political resignations and regular protests on the streets of Malta. But in that time nobody has actually been charged in connection the murder. Will that change today?
Meanwhile, her supporters continue to lay candles, flowers and posters at her memorial. They have done this every single day since her murder in 2017.
Students block road in anti-Muscat protest
1.30pm University students and some lecturers have blocked a road in protest against Joseph Muscat. They staged a sit down on the regional road near the Msida Skatepark, preventing traffic from getting past.
Yorgen Fenech files injunction to stop investigation
1.22pm: Yorgen Fenech, the chief suspect in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia has been released on police bail for the fifth time. We understand he can't actually be charged with anything until a court decides later this afternoon on an injunction he has filed in an attempt to stop the investigation under inspector Keith Arnaud.
Mr Fenech's legal team argue that the lead inspector has close ties with the Prime Minister's former chief of staff Keith Schembri and was the source behind tip-offs he allegedly received about the investigation.
Did you read our editorial?
11am: We wrote: The prime minister has overseen a very serious investigation into his own best friend, which appears to have exonerated him before he even faced a court. Times of Malta is also endorsing Friday night's protest in Valletta.
Middleman unlikely to appear in court
10.30am: The alleged middleman, Melvin Theuma, who was due to testify on Friday in the compilation of evidence against three men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia will likely not be appearing in court.
Muscat visits President
10.15am: Joseph Muscat has paid a visit to President George Vella at San Anton. We don't have many details yet, but we'll bring you up to date shortly.
Here we go again
10am: We're back to reporting minute-by-minute the dramatic events unfolding... after a sleepless night waiting for the outcome of the Cabinet meeting.
- Keith Schembri was released without charge
- Cabinet held an urgent late-night meeting
- Yorgen Fenech said he'll reveal all about people close to the PM
- Yorgen Fenech was denied a pardon