Jason Azzopardi’s dual role as shadow minister for justice and lawyer for the Caruana Galizia family are in conflict and have led to him making public declarations “in bad faith”, lawyers for Yorgen Fenech have charged.
In a legal note filed on Wednesday, Fenech’s legal team also challenged Azzopardi to present evidence he had to back up his claim that Fenech’s wife Marlene had secretly met with Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis last February.
The note was submitted as part of a court case Fenech has opened against Azzopardi, concerning Facebook posts the lawyer and politician shared. Fenech’s lawyers say the posts threaten their client’s presumption of innocence and right to a fair hearing.
Fenech stands accused with complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Azzopardi is one of the lawyers appearing on the family’s behalf, and also sits on the Opposition benches in parliament.
Azzopardi has swatted away Fenech’s claims about the Facebook posts, arguing that the court action is an attempt to stifle and hinder him in his professional duty.
He had also challenged Fenech’s legal team to “file another application”.
'Prove Lija claims'
Fenech’s legal team did just that on Wednesday. In the note, they highlighted an allegation Azzopardi made on Facebook on September 11, in which he claimed that Fenech’s wife Marlene had visited Zammit Lewis at his Lija house last February.
Both Fenech and Zammit Lewis had dismissed this claim as a lie, with Fenech saying she was in Lija that day for a medical appointment.
Fenech’s lawyers noted that many medical professionals and MPs lived in Lija, and argued that Azzopardi should either present evidence to back his allegations “or else desist from tampering further with justice”.
Those public declarations “in bad faith,” were “serious”, said the lawyers, adding that such statements could influence those who were eventually to judge the accused.
As shadow minister, Azzopardi had to appreciate the “delicate nature” of his role and the fact that his public declarations “could impinge upon the rights of the accused,” they argued.
Azzopardi seemed unwilling to “grasp the difference between the roles and the individual responsibilities” linked to each of his two roles, the lawyers added.
Lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran, Marion Camilleri and Charles Mercieca signed the note.
Although Azzopardi is not the only sitting MP to also practice as a lawyer, he has come in for more attention than others for the dual role.
In April, Azzopardi had to renounce his brief as a lawyer for NGO Repubblika following a political controversy and said he would be consulting the PN leadership before taking on any similarly politically sensitive cases in future.
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