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62 lawyers back bid to save Caruana Galizia memorial

Court asked to stop the government from removing memorial in Great Siege Square

A banner erected yesterday morning by activists calling for justice for slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, at the site of the Great Siege monument in Valletta, was taken down by government workers in the afternoon. It was later again erected. Campaigners will today mark the 11th month since the journalist’s assassination. Photos: Mark Zammit Cordina

A banner erected yesterday morning by activists calling for justice for slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, at the site of the Great Siege monument in Valletta, was taken down by government workers in the afternoon. It was later again erected. Campaigners will today mark the 11th month since the journalist’s assassination. Photos: Mark Zammit Cordina

Activist Manuel Delia late on Saturday took to the courts in a bid to prevent the government from removing a memorial to slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, arguing that doing so trampled upon his right to freedom of expression. 

Mr Delia filed a request for an injunction – supported by more than 60 lawyers – against Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, his permanent secretary and the director of public cleansing requesting the court to order the government not to remove the makeshift memorial at the foot of the Great Siege monument. 

Mr Justice Noel Cuschieri refused Mr Delia’s request for a temporary injunction and scheduled a hearing for October 5. Dr Bonnici said last week that the monument had been sealed off for health and safety reasons during the restoration of its base.

A day-long skirmish played out on Saturday, after workers from the Cleansing Department cleared away a banner, candles and flowers set up by activists earlier that morning.

Questions sent to Dr Bonnici asking why the workers were ordered to remove the memorial were not answered.

The banner, calling for justice for Ms Caruana Galizia, was returned to Mr Delia, a political blogger and former PN candidate, after a police report was filed at the Valletta station.

It was placed back on the hoarding covering the monument immediately after its return.

Activists putting the banner up yesterday morning.Activists putting the banner up yesterday morning.

Mr Delia argued in the injunction that the unjustified removal of the banner, candles and flowers amounted to an attack on his freedom of expression.

The injunction was signed by lawyers Evelyn Borg Costanzi, Paul Borg Olivier as well as lawyers and PN MPs Jason Azzopardi, Karol Aquilina and Therese Comodini Cachia. It was also supported by 62 lawyers, among them former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil.  Other names included Mario deMarco, Beppe Fenech Adami, Joe Giglio, Chris Said, Austin Gatt, Andrew Borg Cardona and Peter Caruana Galizia.

Mr Delia posted on his blog afterwards that this was the first time there had been a formal admission that the destruction of the memorial was the action of government. It was now up to volunteers to protect it until the arguments were heard.

The monument opposite the law courts has been the scene of countless skirmishes between those fighting to keep Ms Caruana Galizia’s memory alive and others seemingly angered by the memorial placed in the heart of Valletta.

Activists were heckled by a group of five men while they were setting up the banner, candles and flowers yesterday.

Several men were heard shouting that Ms Caruana Galizia was a “liar”, and the activists had gotten on people’s nerves by constantly restoring the memorial.

The activists handed them leaflets citing constitutional references to freedom of expression, which the objectors immediately dumped in a bin.

In another twist on Saturday, Labour councillors in Mosta voted against a motion to bestow an honour recognising Ms Caruana Galizia’s contribution as a journalist.

A vigil will be held today marking the 11-month anniversary since the journalist was violently killed by a car bomb in Bidnija on October 16.

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