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Columnist cleared of harassing magistrate

File pictures: Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera and Daphne Caruana-Galizia.

File pictures: Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera and Daphne Caruana-Galizia.

Columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia was this morning acquitted of harassing Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera.

This was an ex-officio charge which could not be dropped at the magistrate's request. Mrs Caruana Galizia was found not guilty on the grounds that a journalist writing about a public figure does not constitute harassement.

All the other charges related to criminal defamation made at Magistrate Herrera's request were dropped after she declared that she had no further interest in pursing the case.

In a sitting this morning during which submissions on a note by the magistrate that she had no further interest in pursuing charges of defamation and criminal libel against Mrs Caruana Galizia, her lawyer Roberto Montalto said he is accepting the waiver.

In her note to Magistrate Antonio Micallef Trigona, who was hearing the case, Magistrate Scerri Herrera said that her complaint to the police about what was written by Ms Caruana Galizia was mainly about specific allegations involving drugs and corruption.

Mrs Caruana Galizia's testimony in court in September covered more than drugs and corruption.

Magistrate Herrera said she was asking the police to drop the charges once Mrs Caruana Galizia admitted in court that she had not verified the facts before writing.

Mrs Caruana Galizia categorically denied that she retracted anything that she had written in the blog. She also denied that she had not verified the facts before writing.

The sitting, attended by Mrs Caruana Galizia but not by Magistrate Scerri Herrera, was over in minutes.

A number of witnesses had been called to testify in the case. These included former Chief Justice Vincent de Gaetano, Opposition leader Joseph Muscat, Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, deputy police commissioner Michael Cassar, lawyer Veronique Dalli, former PL general secretary Jason Micallef, Ronnie Pellegrini, PN candidate Robert Musumeci, and the registrar of courts.

The latter was going to be called to say how many libel cases had been removed from Magistrate Scerri Herrera's jurisdiction, how many times Mr Musumeci had been nominated court expert by Magistrate Scerri Herrera and the dates of these cases.

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