Author and former National Book Council chairman Mark Camilleri will have to prove that his claims about Rosianne Cutajar taking money from Yorgen Fenech are true if he is to win a libel case filed by the Labour MP.
A magistrates’ court on Monday upheld a request by Cutajar’s lawyers seeking to reverse the burden of proof in the case, after Camilleri’s lawyers argued that what their client had alleged was substantially true.
When as in this case, the defendant pleads justification - namely that the facts are true - the burden lies on him to prove the truth of his words.
Camilleri has claimed that Cutajar and Fenech were in a romantic relationship and that Fenech was paying her money while she defended him from corruption allegations. A property deal she brokered for Fenech was a “pretence” for those payments, Camilleri wrote.
Fenech, an heir to the Tumas business empire, stands accused of complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. He is pleading not guilty.
In his reply to Cutajar’s defamation claims, Camilleri pleaded that what he had alleged about Cutajar was substantially true.
When proceedings resumed on Monday, Cutajar was due to testify. But her lawyers argued that since Camilleri was pleading the truth of the facts, he had to first present evidence to support that plea.
Camilleri’s lawyer objected to that request, arguing that since Cutajar had filed the libel suit, she was to put forward evidence first.
But her lawyer, Edward Gatt, stood firm by his argument insisting that his client had no problem testifying and would do so, but only once Camilleri brought evidence to show that what he alleged about her was true.
After hearing those submissions the court, presided over by Magistrate Rachel Montebello, upheld the applicant’s request even in light of case law on the subject and ordered Camilleri to produce evidence about that plea at the next sitting.
His lawyer informed the court that Camilleri, who lives abroad, would likely present an affidavit and then would likely face cross-examination via video conferencing.
The case continues in June.
Lawyer Mark Vassallo is also assisting the applicant. Lawyer Joseph Mizzi represented the respondent.
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