A statement by the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee linking the Electrogas project to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia caused “irreparable harm” to Yorgen Fenech’s fundamental rights, his lawyers claim.
“Had the Electrogas project not happened, Daphne Caruana Galizia would not have been killed,” PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami said, while chairing last Wednesday’s session of the parliamentary committee which was questioning Electrogas director Paul Apap Bologna.
“Yes, Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered because of corruption in the Electrogas deal,” reiterated Fenech Adami, repeating his position several times.
It was not the first statement of its kind but rather one of a frequent succession of public pronouncements which “prejudiced the minds of those who could eventually be called to judge” the businessman who stands accused of complicity in the journalist’s assassination said.
Not only was the sitting broadcast live on the Parliamentary channel, but it also featured on Fenech Adami’s own Facebook page, garnering some 3,400 views, said Fenech’s lawyers.
Moreover, later that same evening, the politician had shared a Times of Malta report about that PAC session, adding a personal comment about “calling a spade a spade”.
As committee chairman, Fenech Adami was a public official and, therefore, his statement about an accused person who has not yet been proven guilty, could not “refer to that person as being guilty” in terms of article 366C of the Criminal Code.
Yet, during that May 26 session, the chairman referred to Fenech as guilty while firing a line of questions about the businessman’s involvement in the Electrogas project and linking it to Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
His statement clearly did not voice a suspicion but was an expression of “absolute certainty” which, uttered by a public official, amounted to negative pre-trial publicity that swept aside Fenech’s presumption of innocence and right to fair hearing, argued the lawyers.
“Public officials must choose their words carefully when they speak about pending criminal proceedings,” they said, citing legal doctrine, and courts would be “more exigent” when statements were made by politicians acting “as public officials”.
By means of an application filed on Tuesday in the records of the murder compilation, the lawyers called upon Magistrate Rachel Montebello to determine the alleged breach of rights, provide an adequate remedy and ensure that similar statements were avoided in future.
Such public declarations caused “irreparable harm” to the applicant’s fundamental rights and the administration of justice, his lawyers claimed.
Lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran, Charles Mercieca and Marion Camilleri signed the application.
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