Magistrate to decide on bail for Caruana Galizia murder accused

Magistrate to decide on bail for Caruana Galizia murder accused

Decision expected later on Tuesday

Alfred Degiorgio, Vince Muscat and George Degiorgio

Alfred Degiorgio, Vince Muscat and George Degiorgio

Submissions on bail for the three men accused of murdering journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia were heard by a magistrate on Tuesday afternoon. A decision is expected later.

Brothers Alfred Degiorgio (known as Il-fulu) and George Degiorgio (Iċ-Ċiniz) as well as Vince Muscat, (known as il-koħħu) have been under arrest since a dawn raid on a Marsa warehouse on December 4. They were arraigned on the following day

They have pleaded not guilty to the car bomb murder which shocked the nation on October 16.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit has already ruled that there is enough evidence for the three to stand trial.

The three were taken to court under strict security by armed policemen shortly before the sitting began on Tuesday. 

Defence argues its case

At the start of proceedings, lawyers William Cuschieri and Martin Fenech argued that the accused were presumed innocent and therefore could not be denied their freedom.

If the prosecution had a watertight case, why deny these men bail? How could they tamper with evidence? Fear must be real not imaginary, they argued. 

The men had behaved well in prison and caused no trouble, and all had fixed ties in Malta. 

Furthermore, the law established that the accused in such cases had a right to bail after some 22 months. 

The court may even impose a curfew, but these men should be allowed to return to their families while proceedings continued, lawyers continued.

Lawyer Josette Sultana said that keeping people under arrest should be the exception, not the rule, when there was the presumption of innocence. These men should not be treated differently from other accused.

Dr Cuschieri said this was a case which had been “blown out of proportion”

Lawyer Jason Azzopardi, appearing parte civile, said counsel could not have chosen a more inappropriate term. There was no sensitivity.

'A criminal organisation,' prosecutors say

Inspector Keith Arnaud, for the prosecution, said this was a very serious case where the accused were liable for life imprisonment. The court had discretion whether to grant bail.

It was not true that the law allowed the court to grant bail in all cases of willful homicide, he said, adding that not all homicides were the same. This attack might have caused even more serious consequences and more victims. 

The investigation was still ongoing, though not because there was any doubt about whether these men committed this crime, the inspector said.

The prosecution's argument in previous sittings about the murder being the act of a criminal organisation was not imaginary, inspector Arnaud said. There was proof that the crime was committed by three men - this fell under the terms of law for a criminal organisation.

Replying, Dr Fenech said the defence did not want to imply that this was not a “cruel” case. Of course it was. But there was also cruelty in respect of their clients now. The court had to take into consideration the interests of all.

Dr Cuschieri said the criminal record of the accused showed minor offences.

No proof had been presented of a ‘broad criminal organisation’ as implied by the attorney general in arguments against bail. 

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is to deliver decree on bail in chambers later.