Following the arrest of three men in December 2017, we are seeing a major breakthrough in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder inquiry. It’s hugely tempting to greet such news with euphoria but, given the complexities of this case, great caution remains the advisable course.
What we know: Times of Malta broke the story yesterday that the alleged middleman in the journalist’s assassination has offered to reveal the identity of the person who commissioned him. He is demanding a presidential pardon in return, not just for his involvement in this heinous crime but also others he has committed.
Permitting a criminal to turn State’s Evidence, particularly in a murder case, is far from an ideal route – because justice dictates that all those guilty of a crime should be held to account. Joseph Muscat had himself expressed such a reservation on this point some weeks ago and warned that recent history did not reflect favourably on the granting of pardons.
However, yesterday, the Prime Minister, somewhat surprisingly given his previous statements, acceded to the middleman’s request on condition that he gives evidence and cooperates with the authorities. What Dr Muscat did not say, and this point is crucial, is whether such a pardon would be granted only in the event of a successful conviction of the mastermind.
Though the Prime Minister said that prudence should be exercised by the press – on the whole the mainstream media has been prudent, though social media has been another matter as certain people have been only too willing to trumpet any snippet they have learned at the risk of prejudicing a potential trial – he added that he did not think a big step towards resolution to this issue would happen in a matter of days.
Time is not on his, or anybody’s side.
As a news organisation, we have acted with as much prudence as possible to try to ensure that justice is served
The Caruana Galizia family have been seeking justice for the assassination of their mother, wife, sister and daughter for two years now and have had to watch on helplessly as the three men accused of actually carrying out the murder have been using every delaying tactic in the book to stall a trial.
In the meantime, Malta has had to watch on helplessly as its reputation is tarnished because of the painfully slow progress made in this investigation and the possible political ramifications that it may have.
As a news organisation, we have acted with as much prudence as possible to try to ensure that justice is served. But the Caruana Galizia case goes beyond justice.
Accountability is a central facet that cannot be shrouded in a smokescreen or ignored.
Why is it only now, after Times of Malta applied pressure through a story it published last month revealing that a businessman is a key suspect, that the case finally seems to be moving forward?
How much information has been in possession of investigators? For how long? What kind of briefings has the Prime Minister received on these lines of inquiry? He made a point of saying that he had full faith in the investigators. But have they always had full faith in him?
And after the name of the mastermind becomes public, what measures will he take to ensure that accountability is shouldered not just in the courts but also, if need be, on other levels.
His track record on the latter is far from admirable. Ironically, the Caruana Galizia case may offer a redemption of sorts, but only if the truth – and the whole truth – emerges.