Yorgen Fenech, the businessman suspected of having masterminded the car bomb murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was denied bail by a judge on Tuesday.

Fenech was arraigned at the end of November and accused of complicity in the October 2017 murder. He pleaded not guilty.

On Monday, he filed for bail, arguing that his right to a fair hearing was breached when court business was suspended because of COVID-19 restrictions, meaning the compilation of evidence in his regard could not continue.

At this stage, the records were “frozen” and the Attorney General was the sole authority to call for the hearing of witnesses and the continuation of the compilation. In the meantime he was still under preventive arrest.

The lawyers argued in their application that Fenech had a clean criminal record and was no unruly character, adding that the charges against him pivoted upon the testimony of Melvin Theuma, (the middleman of the murder plot).

Theuma had been “promised benefits which he would never have obtained had he not testified the way he did,” the lawyers said, remarking about “inconsistencies” in his testimony.

The defence also argued that Fenech confinement in a prison environment posed a health risk.  

Justice Edwina Grima dismissed the arguments, finding that there was no change in circumstances since another two bail requests were rejected.  

All fears surrounding Fenech's possible release from preventive arrest still subsisted, the court said, pointing out that these had not been eradicated simply because of the “global emergency.”

The right to bail was not automatic, the court went on.  

The factual circumstances of this case appeared to extend far beyond those reflected in the records of the case, the court said, noting that the assassination investigation was still ongoing, with a strong suspicion that the criminals involved “had not all been intercepted.”

Granting Fenech bail would pose a threat to the administration of justice and the gravity of the charges presented a threat to public disorder. Moreover,  the gathering of evidence was still at an early stage and several witnesses still had to testify in the compilation of evidence. 

 

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