Life behind bars is proving to be a tough pill to swallow for the three men who stand accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia, with their defence lawyers complaining about unfair visitation rights and leaks to the media.
The compilation of evidence against Vincent Muscat and Degiorgio brothers George and Alfred continued on Wednesday morning, with prosecuting officers summoning various civilians to testify and corroborate their information.
Each dutifully waited their turn and took the witness stand, with the court hearing from Alfred Degiorgio's St Paul's bay landlord, the man who sold his boat to George Degiorgio for €30,000 in cash and the panel beater who fixed Ms Caruana Galizia's leased car last September.
But in a hearing which lasted more than two hours, it was the defence team's complaints about the three suspects' treatment in prison which stood out.
Lawyer Martin Fenech began the sitting by asking the magistrate to order an investigation into leaks about his client Mr Muscat which seemed to be emanating from prison.
Last week, Malta Today had reported that Mr Muscat had been admitted to hospital after complaining of chest pains.
Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit told Dr Fenech that leaks to the media were hardly unusual and that there was little she could do about them, but that she would refer his complaint to the director of prisons.
Lawyers for all three suspects were just as upset about their clients' visitation rights, arguing that the men were being treated differently to other inmates.
Instead of the large common area usually used for visits by friends and family, the men were being forced to meet their relatives in a small room, with three guards listening in, and at 5.30pm rather than the 4pm slot usually reserved for such visits, the court was told.
"He can't even speak to his wife," Alfred Degiorgio's lawyer Martha Muscat said.
"They just want to be treated like other inmates," his other attorney, William Cuschieri, agreed.
Attorney General representative Philip Galea Farrugia told the court that their complaints were unfounded - it was up to the director of prisons to set visitation times, and the three men were allowed as many visits as other inmates.
With Dr Cuschieri insisting that it was a case of two weights, two measures, the magistrate said that she would evaluate the situation before passing judgement.
A landlord, a boat owner and a panel beater
In the course of the court hearing, a police sergeant who reached the scene of the crime minutes after the bomb exploded told the court that the blaze was so strong "you could not even approach it, let alone try and offer any sort of help."
Alfred Degiorgio's landlord confirmed that he used to receive €800 monthly from the accused, while another witness told the court that he had sold his boat Maya to George Degiorgio for €30,000 in cash early last year - though it is his brother Alfred who is listed as the vessel's registered owner, a Transport Malta official later told the court.
In an earlier hearing, police had testified that they had spotted the Maya re-entering the Grand Harbour on the day Ms Caruana Galizia was murdered, with its geolocation matching that of a SIM card linked to the deadly blast.
An Mrieħel panel beater tasked with fixing Ms Caruana Galizia's leased car last September explained how he had retrieved the car keys from a neighbour, after a Percius car hire employee had posted them in the wrong letterbox.
Attorney General's role
In another disagreement between the defence and prosecution, defence lawyers objected to the attorney general's office having a seat at the prosecutorial table.
Given that the case was still at the compilation of evidence stage, they argued, Philip Galea Farrugia should not be present and the attorney general's office should play the "quasi-judicial" role of watchdog.
As Jason Azzopardi, who was appearing on behalf of the Caruana Galizia family, heaped scorn on that line of argument, magistrate Stafrace Zammit decided the session had gone on for long enough and adjourned proceedings.
The compilation of evidence will resume on the morning of Thursday, February 15.
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