The Malta Independent 20 February 2019, Wednesday

Activist says removal of Daphne memorial breached his right to free expression

Tuesday, 12 February 2019, 15:00 Last update: about 7 days ago

Activist Manuel Delia has replied to a challenge to his juridical interest in a Constitutional case he himself had filed over the removal by the authorities of candles and floral tributes from a makeshift memorial to murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, saying the argument had no basis in fact.

This development comes after Delia’s juridical interest in the case which he had personally filed against the government over the persistent dismantling of the makeshift memorial was questioned in court.

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Juridical interest is a prerequisite for the filing of legal action – it means the person filing must have a direct, legal, actual and personal stake in the outcome of the case.

In a Constitutional application filed yesterday before the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction, Delia says that on Saturday 15 September at around 10:30am he, together with other activists, had placed a banner - consisting of the Maltese flag, the word “JUSTICE” and an image of Caruana Galizia -  on the hoarding which was covering the Great Siege Monument in Republic Street.

At the same time a number of other persons had placed candles and other related objects before the makeshift memorial “as a call for justice to be done with regards to her murder and the persons whom she investigated,” he explained.

This memorial was subsequently dismantled by the authorities and replaced by fresh items several times.

Delia is claiming that the removal of the memorial amounted to a breach of his fundamental right to express himself freely.

But lawyers for defendant justice Minister Owen Bonnici and the Director General responsible for the Cleansing Department had then challenged his juridical interest in the case.  They argued that third parties, and not Delia, had placed the items at the foot of the monument.

In his reply, filed yesterday before the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction, Delia quotes his sworn application before that court, in which he clearly states that he had, in fact placed flowers and candles together with other activists.

“This is why the applicant cannot understand how the defendants reached the conclusion that from his affidavit it emerges that the objects were placed by third parties. Here, the application is absent every trace of the truth.”

Delia, in the reply, said that he was prepared to exhibit evidence proving that he paid for the banners around the hoarding surrounding the Great Siege monument, that he participated in protests in front of the monument and had placed objects at the base of it. He also said he had evidence that the defendants had accepted that the objects belonged to him as they had returned them to him on the instructions of the police.

“It is true that the applicant didn’t act alone. It is also true that there were other activists making the same form of protest as him, amongst them, Dr. Karol Aquilina and Ms. Ann Demarco, but…the applicant is perplexed as to how the fact that there were persons of the same opinion could take away his juridical interest.” The fact that a section of the population has the same interest in protesting as the applicant should strengthen his case and not lessen his juridical interest, Delia said. He asked for the court’s protection in this regard, describing the application as “deprived of all form of logic.”

This case, he said, was one asking for the protection of freedom of expression. How could it be said that he lacked juridical interest to institute this case, which was intentioned to safeguard the right to freedom of expression when he is one of the most active activists who takes part in the protests, he asked.

Lawyers Paul Borg Olivier, Jason Azzopardi, Therese Comodini Cachia and Eve Borg Costanzi are assisting Delia.

Lawyers Victoria Buttigieg and Chris Cilia are assisting the respondents.



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