Home Europe Caruana Galizia ‘politically irrelevant’ when she was killed, says Maltese ex-PM

Caruana Galizia ‘politically irrelevant’ when she was killed, says Maltese ex-PM

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The journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was “politically irrelevant because she fell out with both governing and opposition parties, and that’s when she was killed,” former Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told a public inquiry into her death on Friday, local media reported.

Muscat, who stepped down in January, was the only person to testify before the court in Valletta on Friday as part of an inquiry set up to determine whether the state could have done anything to prevent the journalist’s murder. 

Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist and blogger, was killed by a car bomb near her home in October 2017.

Muscat, a former MEP and Labour Party leader, began with a withering attack on the inquiry board — which he approved in his final weeks as prime minister — saying “from what I learnt through the media covering the proceedings, most witnesses, questions and inquiries … were of little assistance in the fulfillment of your role.”

Muscat — whose comments were posted on social media as he spoke in court — said the state as a whole, and not the Labour government that he led, should have been investigated.

“Daphne Caruana Galizia was deeply critical of the opposition [the center-right Nationalist Party] in her writings especially during the last six months of writing, focusing almost exclusively on this,” Muscat said. “What type of scrutiny was this crucial part of the legislative arm subject to? How come all her writings in this regard were not scrutinized as in the case of government? Let me remind you that in her writing were accusations of corruption, money laundering and abuses. The reason why all this was was not duly investigated escapes me.”

He went on: “To be clear, I had no information that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s life was in danger, and nobody made any statement to that effect. Moreover, I am not informed that any state entity was aware of such, let alone facilitated or could have prevented.” He also said her work veered between “world-class” journalism and “gutter gossip.”

Muscat told the inquiry that he knew his “position became untenable” when his chief of staff Keith Schembri was arrested in connection with the murder case. The ex-prime minister also said he was wrong to keep Schembri and Cabinet Minister Konrad Mizzi in post for as long as he did. The two men had links to prominent businessman Yorgen Fenech, who was arrested in late 2019 in connection with the murder of Caruana Galizia. They both resigned in November 2019.

Fenech has been charged with organizing and financing the killing. He denies any involvement with the murder. Three other men have been charged with the murder and have pleaded not guilty.

Muscat told the inquiry that he also had “a friendship” with Fenech. “I don’t deny that.”

Muscat said he, Schembri and Fenech had a WhatsApp group in which they shared photos of food and wine — “but not of women” — but added that he had only met Fenech eight times in person.

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