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Malta marks 5 years since journalist murdered, seeks justice

Malta on Sunday marked the fifth anniversary of the car bombing of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, just two days after two prime suspects changed course and pleaded guilty to the murder on the first day of their trial.

The archbishop of the small Mediterranean island, Charles Scicluna, celebrated morning mass at the small Bidnija Church near where Caruana Galizia lived. Sunday’s day-long memorial also includes a silent rally at the site of the bombing, an evening demonstration organized by civil society organizations demanding justice and a vigil at a makeshift memorial to her in front of the courts of Valletta.

Caruana Galizia, who had written extensively on her website “Running Commentary” about suspected corruption in political and business circles in the EU nation, was killed on October 16, 2017 when a bomb exploded under her car while she was near her. drove home. The murder shocked Europe and sparked furious protests in Malta.

A 2021 public inquiry report found that the Maltese state “must bear responsibility” for the murder because of the culture of impunity that has emerged from the highest levels of government. But just last month, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights had condemned the “lack of effective results in establishing accountability”.

When the trial began Friday for brothers George Degiorgio, 59, and Alfred Degiorgio, 57, the alleged hitmen withdrew their pleas and pleaded guilty to carrying out the murder and were each sentenced to 40 years in prison. The conviction brought the number of people serving prison terms 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 welcomed Friday’s sentencing as a step forward, but said full justice was still needed.

“Daphne still can’t write her blog, enjoy her children and grandchildren, make pottery in her garden or be with her loved ones,” EU 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 trying to cover it up.”

Caruana Galizia, 53, was a top Maltese investigative journalist who targeted those in the inner circle of then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, whom she accused of disclosing offshore companies in tax havens in the Panama Papers leak. She also targeted the opposition. When she was murdered, she faced more than 40 libel cases.

Other lawsuits are currently pending in Maltese courts related to the murder.

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

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

A self-proclaimed intermediary, taxi driver Melvin Theuma, was given a presidential pardon in 2019 in exchange for testimony.

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

Opposition leader Bernard Grech also said the conviction was “another step towards justice”. But he said on social media: “We have to keep pushing for the whole truth to come out, we want justice to be fully implemented.”

One of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sons, Matthew, said outside the courthouse on Friday that he was “relieved” that the two brothers had been convicted and convicted. “Now it’s the rest of the business,” he said.

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