The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

Judge to deliver decree on bail request by three men accused of murdering Caruana Galizia

Friday, 6 March 2020, 09:40 Last update: about 4 months ago

Madam Justice Edwina Grima is set to deliver a decree on a request for bail from three men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, and Vince Muscat are accused of murdering the journalist on 16 October 2017 by detonating a bomb that was placed inside her car.

It was middlman Melvin Theuma who allegedly acted as the broker between Yorgen Fenech, who is accused of complicity in the murder, and the three men.

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Fenech is facing separate charges on the same case.

Follow minute by minute proceedings below. Pease refresh for latest updates 

10.06am: The court will now continue to hear the deputy AG's justification of court experts who had been summoned to testify in the compilation of evidence. Thanks for following the live blog. We will update you with the judge’s bail decision when she issues the decree.

9.57am: Galea Farrugia is now justifying the role of architect Richard Aquilina, a court expert, who had exhibited his report, including a sketch, on the scene of the crime. Aquilina had also drawn up a list of items found in the potato shed, where the three men were arrested in December 2017. He had confirmed that the scene of the crime was secured from all entrances.

9.53am: He is talking about Martin Bajada, the IT expert who had been summoned as a witness in the compilation of evidence against the accused. Galea Farrugia says that Bajada's expertise is valid, and by extension, so is his nomination as a main witness. The Deputy AG is referring to jurisprudence to validate why such experts were chosen and why they were important to the hearing.

9.51am: The court is now hearing the deputy AG's technical pitch, underlying why certain court experts were nominated and why others were turned down from testifying.

9.48am: The bail submissions have concluded. Madam Justice Edwina Grima will deliver her decree later on.

9.44pm: "My clients have informed me that they are saying that if they sleep in prison during their bail, they don't mind if these hours in prison are not reduced in the final punishment," Cuschieri says, adding that after all, the crime that they are accused of usually comes with life imprisonment.

9.41am: Defence lawyer William Cuschieri responds: "Just because the investigation is ongoing, doesn't mean that the accused can remain arrested indefinitely."

9.40am: He adds that if the accused choose to sleep in prison, this could cause "major legal issues" in the future because such night-time detention would have to be considered when it's time for a final punishment when the case concludes.

9.39am: Galea Farrugia addresses electronic tagging: "This is the prison director's personal initiative. In the case of a pre-trial detention, the court cannot impose electronic tagging if there is no legal framework for it. It's the police who have the authority to see that the accused follow their bail conditions."

9.37am: The Deputy AG, by way of response, says that the main fear with granting bail is that this case is bigger than the matters at hand. "The investigations are ongoing. There have been major developments. Had they been granted bail before these important developments, there might have been tampering of evidence," Philip Galea Farrugia says.

9.36am: The Degiorgio brothers, sitting being their lawyer, seem very calm, hands on their lap. Vincent Muscat is sitting alone on the other side of the courtroom, flanked by two security officers.

9.35pm: "One of the bail conditions on the Degiorgios is to submit themselves to electronic tagging. They are ready to sleep in prison if it's too inconvenient for the prison director to monitor them 24/7. They are ready to submit themselves to any other conditions that the court deems necessary," the lawyer says.

9.32am: Melvin Theuma, the self-proclaimed middleman, had submitted a box to police containing photographs as well as a set of recordings that Theuma had recorded while in the company of alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech. He had done so, he had told the court, as a kind of insurance, out of fear of being betrayed by Fenech and former chief of staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Keith Schembri.

9.30am: The proof, the lawyer argues, was of a technological nature. "Our case is different. The proof was provided by tech experts: FBI, Vodafone, etc. How can we approach these people to prejudice the case?" The lawyer tells the court that the middleman's recordings don't mention the Degiorgios and that in either case, they are in the court's possession. "What fear is there that the case can be prejudiced?"

9.28am: The defence says that the middleman's comments during the compilation of evidence, implying that there were attempts to approach a magistrate to help with bail is "unjust and unfair" on both the magistrate and his clients. Cuschieri says such a statement was not veritable.

9.26am: "The accusations are serious, but the seriousness should not prevent the accused from getting bail. They have been under preventive arrest for two years now," Cuschieri says.

9.25am: Lawyer Cuschieri asks: "If there is a court order to grant bail, does the electronic tagging facility work here?" The judge interjects and says that with bail, monitoring should be 24/7, so the electronic tagging facility might prove harder than normal.

9.23am: The tags, he says, mark where an inmate is at all times.

9.19am: Dalli says that "the electronic tagging is not a perfect system but it could work to help integrate inmates earlier than usual".

9.17am: The prison director, Alexander Dalli, is speaking about electronic tags used in prison. "They are worn around the ankles. We are able to monitor these. As part of the rehabilitation process, prisoners can start working while imprisoned. I am currently testing whether electronic testing works. For the first time in history, prisoners were sent to their families during Christmas time. The electronic tagging is still in the stage of experimentation."

9.15am: Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia is in the courtroom. The magistrate has also arrived. Corradino Prison Director Alex Dalli will be testifying. The accused's lawyer, William Cuschieri, is asking the questions.

9.14am: The defence has asked for bail and a decision on this will be handed down by the judge .

9.12am: The men accused of executing the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, George and Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat have just entered the courtroom. They are accompanied by four heavy security officers.

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