The Malta Independent 25 May 2020, Monday

PM offers to drop libel cases against Caruana Galizia if heirs concede she was wrong about Egrant

Thursday, 31 January 2019, 11:02 Last update: about 2 years ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat took the witness stand before magistrate Francesco Depasquale this morning in a libel he had filed against Daphne Caruana Galizia, offering to drop the lawsuits in return for a declaration by the defendant’s heirs that she was wrong about the ownership of Egrant.

Lawyer Pawlu Lia asked him what he had to say about the article.

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“I want to declare that I had rarely filed libels because I accept that in my position I am subject to critisicm. But in this case the lie was so large, involving my wife and family that the political stability of the country were being affected."

Describing the allegations as a “massive lie”, he said he knew neither he nor his family had done anything as alleged in the articles. He had immediately gone to the magistrate o duty and asked to open an inquiry.

"I was frustrated that it took so long but the magistrate made a thorough job, speaking to hundreds."

Whoever doesn't accept the results of magistrate's decision doesn’t want to accept the truth, he said.

There was no need for doubt anymore.

“I expect and demand a clear declaration from the other party that they were wrong. I am ready to drop the libel cases.”

Lia, in view of the declaration that the Prime Minister that if the other party accept the conclusions of the inquiry he is ready to withdraw the libel, asked the defendants to make their position clear.

Zammit Maempel said the PM was basing himself on a report that nobody had seen.

Lia said the conclusions of the inquiry serve those making the allegations as the PM has just declared that there was nothing.

PM said he based himself on the conclusion of the inquiry which is public. The magistrate gave no hint of doubt, the results are inconfutable.

The court asked Zammit Maempel whether he needed time to regulate his position. The lawyer was noncommittal.

The PM said that the articles were mentioned in the inquiry.

“My position is clear and emerges from what other people are saying. There is nothing to these allegations. 477 witnesses were spoken to, several rogatory letters were sent to foreign countries. Several details were incorrect especially where given by Maria Efimova. None of the documents quoted were found to exist. They are false documents made by someone who is not identified yet and this was confirmed by several foreign experts.

“Today people smile hearing them but it was a moment of great crisis. The country was on the brink of instability. This thing will hound me, because whenever someone googles my name or my wife’s name this will come up. This is why I’m filing this libel.”

Quoting from the conclusions of the inquiry he reminded that there were numerous contradictions between testimony given by DCG and Efimova. “Personally, I have no idea if Caruana Galizia came up with these allegations herself or was fed them by someone else or something else. I’m not going to speculate. The fact is that she made them her own, I don’t know if she checked them. All my legal advices say that the inquiry should not be published.

“I am not a lawyer but I understand that if someone invents a story to get someone in trouble it is a criminal act. I don’t know who did it yet, what I know is that the victims are myself and my wife. We were targeted specifically and in a cowardly manner by someone.”

“I’m not hunting for the person responsible but I will be content if it is accepted that it was a lie.”

Quoting at length from the inquiry conclusion, he said “I’m sorry that I’m being emotional but this affected my life. Politics requires a thick skin but I’ve been in frontline politics for a long time and have only filed another two libels.

“Were I to go through the blog and sue for every libellous thing I could set up camp in this courtroom,” said the Prime Minister.

“My level of tolerance is very high but this is unacceptable.

"Honestly I cannot understand a situation where that which I requested in the beginning is not accepted. I understand the political and international context but this isn’t a question of opinion any more but a question of fact. We are ready to take a step back if the allegations are withdrawn.”

The case continues in March.

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