Court rejects Daphne accused’s request to suspend proceedings

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The First Chamber of the Court has rejected a request by George Degiorgio to suspend the preliminary hearings set to take place on October 31st.

George Degiorgio is on three men accused along with his brother Alfred Degiorgio and Vincent Muscat, with the assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia just over two years ago.

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Degiorgio’s lawyer William Cuscheri told the court that his client was seeking the ‘interim measure procedure’ in order to challenge a separate case involving the legality of phone tapping.

One Tuesday Degiorgio was calling on the First Hall of the Civil Court to actively delay the legal proceedings ‘with immediate effect’ until he made his official challenge.

The accused said that the law used by the Security Service to tap his calls was contrary to the constitution of the country and at the same time, the prosecution had not yet produced the material despite broadcasting its existence.

Refusing the request means that Mr Degiorgio, his brother and fellow accused Vincent Muscat will face the preliminary hearings over their bill of indictment.

Responding to the request, the Deputy Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg argued that what the accused was doing was ‘nothing but a delaying tactic’. The Deputy AG’s comments referencing a series of cases brought to other courts.

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Preliminary hearing for Daphne accused starts October 31st

Buttigieg remarked that for the request for the interim measure to be approved, the person appealing would need to prove that there had been a right which needed to be protected and subsequent damage would be incurred if it was not.

‘This amounts to an abuse of the interim measure procedure and the Court should provide accordingly against such abuse,’ Buttigieg said.

Weighing in, lawyer Jason Azzopardi representing the Caruana Galizia family, said that while Degiorgio’s lawyer had the right to file ‘over 100 preliminary objections against the bill of indictment … But this request for an interim measure is factually and legally incorrect. He knocked at the wrong door.’

In the court’s decision, the suspension of proceedings would actually impact on the fairness and independence of Mr Degiorgio’s trial.

They added that the accused could’ve raised questions about the legal value of the phone tapping ‘at an early stage of the compilation [of evidence].’ The accused had not done this.

Concluding their 13 page decree, the court stated that the request for the interim measure had been done solely by Alfred Degiorgio and not by the two other accused. Therefore, the court chose not to assume their interests were the same.

The Preliminary hearings will take place on October 31st.