The Malta Independent 14 November 2018, Wednesday

Watch: Role of Opposition Leader suppressed by Attorney General, lawyer insists

Tuesday, 11 September 2018, 11:51 Last update: about 3 months ago

A lawyer for PN Opposition leader Adrian Delia has told a judge that Delia’s role was being suppressed by the Attorney General.

Delia appeared in a court case he filed himself, in which he is demanding a copy of the Egrant inquiry report. The conclusions from Magistrate Aaron Bugeja's inquiry were published in July. The Prime Minister has said that he wants the entire inquiry to be published despite the fact that the Attorney General was against such a move.

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Mr Justice Robert Mangion heard Delia’s counsel, lawyer Vince Galea say he had complied with the demand for a list of witnesses he was asked to provide. “We’re in a situation why we need to tell what the witness is going to testify about. Instead of just writing “about facts which he is privy to” we listed witness by witness which questions we planned on asking. “

But the AG is opposing the request for witnesses to testify.

“The relevance of a question or witness is decided by the court at the time it is asked. The point is that the court is being asked to decide on the relevance of witnesses without even having seen the acts of the inquiry.”

“The AG, in this case, is the defendant and has every right to ask questions. He can say that when asking this question he was wearing the hat of the FIAU chairman, of the AG, of the chief lawyer, but witnesses must testify.”

In the PlusOne case the AG had presented the full inquiry, yet in the Egrant case only part of the conclusions, Galea argued.

“If the AG testified in the Egrant inquiry as chairman of FIAU… we don’t know. Doesn’t the applicant have the right to know in what capacity? So the head of the PL has the info on who testified, what they said and all the rest and the Leader of the Opposition, whose duty is to inform the public on matters of political public interest, has no such information.”

Galea reminded that politicians were meant to serve the public. “If the inquiry says they are to be investigated further or criminal charges, the PM isn’t allowing the Leader of the Opposition to know, there is nothing to stop there not being any steps taken against them.”

Delia’s role as a watchdog was being stifled by this, said the lawyer. “He has a right to know. He gave a copy of process verbal to journalists, why not to someone who has a direct interest in the case?”

Society is the victim, Galea said, if the Leader of the Opposition can’t hold the executive accountable.

The publication of the conclusions sufficed to satisfy the PM’s interests, said the lawyer.

“I would like to know if the Commissioner of Police has a copy of the relevant parts of the inquiry of the people who he investigated. Paqpaqli, PlusOne: what stage had the investigations reached when the inquiry was published? How did the AG pass on a copy to the Prime Minister? Was it through the DOI?”

“The AG has created a political imbalance. So the AG gave a full copy to the PM and to the rest he gave the conclusions. So the PL functionaries have information which can be used politically, and the AG says they are irrelevant.”

“If the AG breaches my rights, have I no redress? Because his discretion is not subject to court scrutiny?”

Lawyer Victoria Buttigieg from the office of the AG said it is clear that all the witnesses are irrelevant because the issue is the use of discretion. She accused the Leader of the Opposition of wanting the AG to do away with the secrecy of the inquiry.

Galea hit back in his counter-reply. The AG is not yet under oath, he said. “So are we to simply take this statement as ok?”

“The process is secret. OK. But just not for the PM, AG, the Commissioner of police and others? We insist that the court, even if it keeps it to itself, must have a copy. We are in court not the pulpit,” he said.

Judge Mangion will rule on the issue on 19 September.

 

AG trying to shut people up - Delia

Speaking to the press after the sitting (video above), Delia said he had not summoned Simon Busuttil as a witness because the former PN leader did not breach anyone’s constitutional rights.

He insisted that this was a case to ensure that the constitutional role of the Leader of the Opposition was respected and protected.

Delia said his predecessor Simon Busuttil had passed on the information he had to the courts, who had launched a number of inquiries. That subject would be discussed once those inquiries were concluded, he said.

“On the other hand, the Egrant inquiry was initiated at the request of the PM. The AG feels that the conclusions should only be given to the PM, so that he can use them as he pleases, but not to the Opposition Leader, who also holds a constitutional role.”

Delia said in Tuesday’s sitting he had formally presented the number of witnesses and explained why each of them was being summoned. “The AG, however, is arguing that we do not have a right to summon any witnesses. His argument was that we instituted this case ‘for the media.’ He is saying that people who come here to seek justice have no right to summon witnesses. With his arrogance, and his failure to observe the laws of this country, he is trying to shut people up. This is why this is a case for freedom of expression.”

The PN Leader also said it was fundamental that the court has a copy of the Egrant inquiry.

 

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