Updated at 9.05pm with Repubblika statement.
Prime Minister Robert Abela laid into an NGO and an Opposition MP who serves as its lawyer on Friday for having filed a criminal complaint against him and the Armed Forces, saying he was being accused of murder.
Abela, who spoke with his entire cabinet behind him in an address to the nation broadcast live at 8pm, said that police had launched an investigation into himself, AFM brigadier Jeffrey Curmi and crew members of patrol boat P52.
That followed two police reports filed by civil society group Repubblika, in which Abela said they accused the army and prime minister of having killed migrants at sea by failing to rescue them.
A second complaint concerns the alleged intentional sabotage of a rubber boat carrying asylum seekers.
The reports were filed on the NGO's behalf by its four lawyers, among them PN MP Jason Azzopardi. The other lawyers were Andrew Borg Cardona, Joe Ellis and Paul Borg Olivier.
A boat carrying more than 50 people was returned to Libya this week with five dead bodies aboard and another seven people missing, after it spent days drifting in Maltese waters.
The criminal complaints, Abela said, meant that there were some who wanted him, the brigadier, and AFM crew to spend their lives in prison.
"My conscience is clear," he said.
Abela said that earlier on Friday he had decided to go to police headquarters and put himself up for investigation.
“At a time when we are all focussed on ensuring the health of all the Maltese, there were some who want to see me serve life in prison. My conscience is clear because we are doing what is right. That is why I am serene,” he said.
In a statement reacting to Abela’s address, Repubblika on Friday night said the prime minister was trying to distract the public from the government and AFM’s decision not to save those stranded at sea.
The civil society group denied that it in any way wanted to undermine the effort to contain the Coronavirus spread, but said it would not shy away from speaking up.
The prime minister and AFM could have simply denied that a migrant boat had been sabotaged, the group said.
Repubblika on Wednesday also began court action against cabinet, saying ministers should face criminal action for their decision to close the country's ports and ignore people in distress at sea.
The decision, the group said, lacked humanity, did not respect human rights or Malta's national and international obligations.
Abela on Friday insisted the island was not a safe port for migrant disembarkation as the country’s resources were all focused on handling the COVID-19 outbreak.
Able said he had wanted to talk about the success the country was having in the fight against the Coronavirus.
Some however, instead wanted to undermine the government’s work, he said.
Amended April 17: Jason Azzopardi filed the police report in his capacity as lawyer for Reppublika.
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