Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has appointed two new members to the board presiding over the public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, after her family raised concerns over the previous panel.
In a statement, the government on Friday said that Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro would serve on the inquiry. Mr Justice Emeritus Michael Mallia will retain his post as chairperson.
The government said that the Caruana Galizia family had agreed to the changes as well as to amendments to the inquiry's terms of reference, following various meetings between both parties.
In a tweet, Andrew Caruana Galizia - one of Ms Caruana Galizia's sons - wrote that the talks were "one of the most painful fights we have ever fought - and it must continue".
"We had to negotiate with people who bear responsibility for my mother’s assassination," he wrote.
A public inquiry was announced back in September and had followed a report on the state of the rule of law in Malta published in June by the Council of Europe. That report had specifically called on the government to set up a public inquiry, aimed at establishing whether the journalist’s death could have been prevented.
Concerns had however been raised over two of the members originally nominated to the three-person inquiry, Ian Refalo and Anthony Abela Medici.
Prof. Refalo had represented the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, which had been openly criticised by Ms Caruana Galizia. His clients also included former Allied Newspapers Limited managing director Adrian Hillman, whose allegedly corrupt relationship with the prime minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri was exposed by Ms Caruana Galizia.
Dr Abela Medici served as director of the Forensic Science Laboratory at the Malta Police Department between 1981 and 2010. However, concerns were raised on his lack of expertise in the area. He is also Commissioner for the Voluntary Sector, a position given by the government without security of tenure.
Both members have now retracted their acceptance to serve on the board.
Meanwhile, the government announced that “as a sign of goodwill” during the talks, the relative oath requested by law prior to the commencement of the Inquiry was not administered to any of the members of the Board.
In light of the fact that Judge Abigail Lofaro is a sitting member of the Judiciary, consultations were held with the Chief Justice to mitigate any negative effect on the pending caseload of Judge Lofaro.
The terms of reference of the board of inquiry have also been “finetuned” in the light of the discussions between the family Caruana Galizia and the government.
The revised terms of reference were also published on Friday.
Meetings leading to the agreement were attended by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and Attorney General Peter Grech from the government’s side, and lawyers Joseph Zammit Maempel and Therese Comodini Cachia and members of the Caruana Galizia family.
Civil society group Repubblika welcomed the change but urged caution.
"We have seen today a small step closer to truth and justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia. But we are still too far from the objective."
The NGO urged people to attend a protest march it is holding on Saturday evening, saying concerns about corruption went "beyond partisan loyalties and beyond disagreements on less important matters".
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