'Someone will take a false oath,' Caruana Galizia's lawyer says

'It's time for society to protect public figures' - minister's lawyer

Lawyers appearing for blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia in libel proceedings said they were on no "fishing expedition" to prove through their submissions that a minister and his consultant had visited a brothel in Germany.

Daphne Caruana Galizia walking into court last month.Daphne Caruana Galizia walking into court last month.

Their intention, they said, was intended to preserve scientific evidence which Minister Chris Cardona and consultant Joseph Gerada ought to be interested in securing.

The submissions concerned an urgent application filed in April wherein Ms Caruana Galizia's lawyers had requested the court to order the preservation of the TAP file containing indicative traffic data linked to the time-frame coinciding with the official visit.

Such data would provide scientific evidence of the data subject's whereabouts and would thus show whether the minister and his aide did actually visit Velbert, the location of the sauna club Acapulco.

Lawyer Antonio Ghio, appearing for the journalist, explained that such TAP files contain "clear, unequivocal, independent and indisputable evidence" which might prove indispensable to determine the actual whereabouts of the two Maltese government officials.

TAP3 files include timestamps of calls made and text messages sent, location area codes of phone calls and the cell tower ID of the network of the foreign operator service.

TAP3 files include timestamps of calls made and text messages sent, location area codes of phone calls

Lawyer Joseph Zammit Maempel, counsel to Ms Caruana Galizia, pointed out that this case presented a scenario where a journalist claimed to have an eyewitness to support her allegations, whereas the minister has issued public statements denying he was anywhere near Velbert.

"Someone is going to take a false oath in this case," Dr Zammit Maempel warned. 

The request for preservation of such data was being made as a precautionary measure since TAP files are only preserved by the service provider up to a period of six months. The request was for the preservation of such data, expressing surprise at the fact that the request had not been forwarded by the minister himself. 

Lawyer Pawlu Lia, counsel to Dr Cardona, said Ms Caruana Galizia was a blogger who instigated political hatred and ridiculed her targeted victims so as to impact their credibility.

"Such a woman did not deserve to be called a journalist," he claimed.

The blogger's allegations concerned an occasion when Minister Cardona was abroad on official duty, which was proved to have been carried out well.

"The rest was irrelevant. Whether he chose to go to bed, or watch a football match was irrelevant," the lawyer argued.

Ms Caruana Galizia chose not to take the procedural route of putting forward facts to prove her allegations. Instead, she claimed to have passed 'a fair comment', Dr Lia continued. 

Moreover, it is time for society to protect public figures, drawing a line about which information lies in the public interest and which is private. This case could set a dangerous precedent, the lawyer said.

Sensitive data that is not relevant to a case should not be allowed. A balance must be reached between the right to privacy and the right to information. Privacy may only be cast aside when this is in the public interest and the law lays down clear instances when this applies.

In reply to an observation made by Ms Caruana Galizia's lawyers regarding the garnishee orders issued against their client, Dr Lia remarked that these concerned only "a few hundreds, thousands... nothing compared to certain amounts issued against other individuals."

The case continues later this month.

Lawyers Antonio Ghio and Joseph Zammit Maempel were counsel to Ms Caruana Galizia.

Lawyers Paul Lia and Mark Vassallo were counsel to Minister Cardona and Dr Joseph Gerada.