Trial begins for car-bomb assassination of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

The first trial for the car-bomb assassination of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

Kevin Schembri Orland,Matthew Agius
Monday 26 February 2024 09:15 GMT
People gather and hold pictures of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia
People gather and hold pictures of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia (REUTERS)

The trial of two brothers charged in the car-bomb assassination of a Maltese journalist who investigated corruption in the tiny island nation began on Friday, nearly five years after the slaying that sent shockwaves across Europe.

George Degiorgio, 59, and Alfred Degiorgio, 57, are charged with having set the bomb that blew up Daphne Caruana Galizia’s car as she drove near her home on Oct. 16, 2017.

Prosecutors allege they were hired by a top Maltese businessman with government ties. That businessman has been charged and will be tried separately.

The Degiorgio brothers have denied the charges. A third suspect, Vincent Muscat, avoided a trial after earlier changing his plea to guilty. Muscat is serving a 15-year sentence.

In a Valletta courtroom Friday, Alfred Degiorgio pleaded not guilty while his brother declared that he had nothing to say. The court interpreted that as a not-guilty plea.

George Degiorgio has promised to implicate others in the plot to assassinate Caruana Galizia. The brothers had unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a pardon in exchange for naming bigger alleged conspirators, including a minister whose identity hasn't been revealed.

Mandy Mallia, sister of late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, lights candles in front of a picture of her sister
Mandy Mallia, sister of late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, lights candles in front of a picture of her sister (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The bomb had been placed under the driver's seat and the explosion was powerful enough to send the car's wreckage flying over a wall and onto a field.

A top Maltese investigative journalist, Caruana Galizia, 53, had written extensively on her website “Running Commentary” about suspected corruption in political and business circles in the Mediterranean island nation, an attractive financial haven.

Among her targets were people in then-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s inner circle whom she accused of having offshore accounts in tax havens disclosed in the Panama Papers leak. But she also targeted the opposition. She was often sued by those she wrote about.

Two weeks before her death, she had filed a police report saying she was receiving threats, according to news reports at the time.

FILE - The wreckage of the car of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia lies next to a road in the town
FILE - The wreckage of the car of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia lies next to a road in the town (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The arrest of a top businessman with connections to top government officials two years after the murder sparked a series of mass protests in the country, forcing Muscat to resign.

Yorgen Fenech was indicted in 2019 for alleged complicity in the slaying, by either ordering or instigating the commission of the crime, inciting another to commit the crime or by promising to give a reward after the fact. He was also indicted for conspiracy to commit murder. Fenech has entered not-guilty pleas to all charges.

No date has been set for his trial.

A self-confessed middleman, taxi driver Melvin Theuma, was granted a presidential pardon in 2019 in exchange for testimony against Fenech and the other alleged plotters. Two men, Jamie Vella and Robert Agius, have been charged with supplying the bomb, but their trial has not yet begun.

A 2021 public inquiry report found that the Maltese state “has to bear responsibility” for Caruana Galizia’s murder because of the culture of impunity that emanated from the highest levels of government.

The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatović, has decried the “lack of effective results in establishing accountability five years later.”

In a letter to the current prime minister, Robert Abela, the commissioner expressed the need for urgency in protecting journalists in Malta and cited ongoing defamation cases against Caruana-Galizia’s family.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in