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Judge: remove two watchdog members

Farrugia Sacco claims he cannot be guaranteed a fair trial

Lino Farrugia Sacco.Lino Farrugia Sacco.

The judge facing an impeachment motion, Lino Farrugia Sacco, yesterday filed a constitutional case demanding that two members of the judiciary’s watchdog be removed as he could not be guaranteed a fair hearing.

He claimed there was a real possibility the process against him would be tainted by bias.

Judge Victor Caruana Colombo and Chamber of Advocates President Reuben Balzan, he said, should not form part of the Commission for the Administration of Justice hearing his case.

He alleged a breach of his fundamental human rights and requested compensation.

The impeachment process against the judge started after he was rapped by the International Olympic Committee in an investigation over the sale of Olympic tickets last year.

Mr Justice Farrugia Sacco filed the application against Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, the Attorney General Peter Grech and the Commission, arguing that his demand was “not a capricious preliminary plea”.

Dr Balzan, he claimed, had a close affiliation with the Nationalist Party’s deputy leader, Simon Busuttil, who had publicly condemned him over this case with Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.

The Prime Minister and Dr Busuttil had also publicly requested his resignation.

Furthermore, Dr Balzan was a managing partner in the law firm headed by Foreign Minister Francis Zammit Dimech, who was part of the Cabinet that voted on the motion to have him impeached, the judge said.

In his request for Judge Caruana Colombo to be removed, Mr Justice Farrugia Sacco said this member had been appointed by the Prime Minister and was involved in another decision by the Commission in 2007, which had publicly censured Mr Justice Farrugia Sacco and requested his immediate resignation as MOC president.

In the application, the judge said the plea to have these two board members removed was discussed in the Commission’s first session of the impeachment process on January 3.

Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri drew the Commission’s attention to the fact that he had been Attorney General in 2007 when Mr Justice Farrugia Sacco had been censured. Judge Philip Sciberras, representing Mr Justice Farrugia Sacco, then asked if the current Attorney General, Peter Grech, had been consulted by the Prime Minister before the impeachment process was filed.

On January 10, Mr Justice Farrugia Sacco received a copy of the minutes of the first sitting with an unsigned declaration was attached. In it, Dr Grech said there was no reason, according to law, that he should abstain from proceedings.

Although no formal request was made for him to abstain, Dr Grech declared his intentions without answering the question on whether he had been consulted by the Prime Minister on the impeachment process, the judge said.

He said that in a sitting held on the same day, the Commission threw out his request to have Dr Balzan and Dr Caruana Colombo removed.

Another member of the Commission, George Abela, had set an example by abstaining because he had represented him in the case in 2007, Mr Justice Farrugia Sacco said.

He had no doubt that the decision by the Prime Minister to start the impeachment process was politically loaded, as he himself had admitted, and because of this he had the right to a fair and impartial hearing.

He added that he was given a short time to formulate his legal arguments and prepare and study the case.

In the light of the circumstances, he claimed, there had been a breach of his fundamental human rights.

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