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Malta marks the 5th anniversary of the murder of a journalist and calls for justice

VALLETTA, Malta – Malta marked the fifth anniversary of the car bombing of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on Sunday with calls for justice, just two days after two key suspects reversed course and pleaded guilty to murder the first day of their trial.

The archbishop of the small Mediterranean island nation, Charles Scicluna, celebrated a morning mass in the small church in Bidnija near where Caruana Galizia lived, making several references to the need for justice even when it puts the powerful in harm’s way. comfortable.

“The question we must answer, before complaining to God, is: are we doing our part,” Scicluna told congregants. “Or does our silence, our complicity, our fear prevent God from doing justice?

Caruana Galizia, who had written extensively on her ‘Running Commentary’ website about suspected corruption in the European nation’s political and business circles, was killed on October 16, 2017 when a bomb placed under her car exploded while she was driving near her home. . The murder shocked Europe and sparked angry protests in Malta.

A 2021 public inquiry report found that the Maltese state “must take responsibility” for the murder due to the culture of impunity that emanated from the highest levels of government. But just last month, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner denounced “the lack of effective results in establishing accountability”.

When the trial opened on Friday for brothers George Degiorgio, 59, and Alfred Degiorgio, 57, the alleged hitmen quashed their pleas and pleaded guilty to committing the murder and were each sentenced to 40 years from prison. The conviction brought the number of people serving sentences to three, after Vincent Muscat pleaded guilty last year to his part in the murder and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Both the government and the opposition hailed Friday’s sentencing as a step forward, but said full justice had yet to be served.

“Daphne still cannot write her blog, enjoy her children and grandchildren, potter in her garden or be with her loved ones,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola wrote on social media. “Today is not justice, it is a small step. Now for those who ordered and paid for it, those who protected them and those who spent years doing everything imaginable for try to hide it.

After mass, Sunday’s day of remembrance also includes a silent gathering at the site of the attack, an evening protest by civil society organizations calling for justice and a vigil at a makeshift memorial outside the palace. Justice of Valletta.

Caruana Galizia, 53, was a prominent Maltese investigative journalist who targeted members of then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s inner circle whom she accused of disclosing offshore companies in tax havens in the leak of the Panama Papers. It also targeted the opposition. When she was killed, she was facing more than 40 libel suits.

Other legal cases are currently pending in the Maltese courts relating to the murder.

Yorgen Fenech, a prominent businessman with ties to the former government, is awaiting trial after his 2021 indictment on charges of alleged complicity in murder and conspiracy to commit murder. His arrest in 2019 sparked a series of mass protests around the country that culminated in Muscat’s resignation.

Fenech had pleaded not guilty to all charges in the pretrial evidence compilation. Two other men have been charged with supplying the bomb and are currently the subject of a pre-trial compilation of evidence. They pleaded not guilty.

A confessed middleman, taxi driver Melvin Theuma, won a presidential pardon in 2019 in exchange for testifying.

The Maltese government released a statement after the Degiorgios’ guilty pleas on Friday, calling it a “significant step forward” in justice for a case that “represents a dark chapter in Malta’s history”. The statement said the government is committed to doing “full justice to the Caruana Galizia family and the Maltese people”.

Opposition leader Bernard Grech also said the sentencing was “one step closer to justice”. But he said on social media: “We have to keep pushing for the full truth to come out, we want full justice.”

One of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sons, Matthew, said outside the courthouse on Friday he was “relieved” that the two brothers had been found guilty and sentenced. “Now it’s about the remaining cases,” he said.