The Malta Independent 23 May 2024, Thursday
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Updated: Muscat’s libel case against lawyer dismissed as former PM claims dirty tactics were used

Thursday, 2 December 2021, 12:28 Last update: about 3 years ago

A lawyer who published a Facebook post accusing former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of blowing up journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has been cleared of libel after neither Muscat nor his lawyer showed up for the case.

The former Prime Minister, however, accused Grima and his legal team of using dirty tricks to have the case dropped.

Lawyer Christian Grima made the claim in a post published on 2 May in reaction to a video clip of Muscat's wife Michelle talking about Caruana Galizia's murder on Xtra in 2019.

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In the clip, Michelle Muscat said that she was sorrier about "what happened to her [Daphne]" than the journalist's own family. "I told myself 'now I'm going to have to live with her lies'," Michelle Muscat had said in the interview.

 Reacting to the comment, Grima wrote on his Facebook page: "Your husband blew her up, Michelle. That's what happened to her."

The former Prime Minister subsequently sued Grima for libel, describing the claim as “totally false.”

But the case never got off the ground, with bailiffs initially being unable to serve the defendant with the notification of his court date.

Muscat had also failed to turn up for a previous sitting in June, with Muscat’s lawyer Pawlu Lia informing the court that he had told his client not to attend after checking the case records in the court registry and finding that Grima had not yet been notified. The court had then ordered that a notice of summons be published in a local newspaper.

When the case was called this morning at 9:50am, both Joseph Muscat and Pawlu Lia did not turn up, despite court messengers calling them several times.

Grima’s lawyer, Carl Grech, then asked that as the plaintiff and his lawyer did not turn up, the case against his client be dismissed. The court postponed the case until 10:30am as a last chance for the parties, but when it was called again at that time and neither Muscat nor his lawyer appeared, Grech repeated his request to have the case dismissed.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello decreed thus, after noting the absence of the plaintiff and his lawyer from the sitting, in spite of the court having postponed the sitting to give them the opportunity to attend late.

The case was dismissed.

In a Facebook post, the former PM accused Grima and his lawyer of finding a way to have the case dismissed.

He said the court had tried for months to notify Grima about the case, but the latter could not be found and never showed up, despite having been aware of the libel suit. 

“When he finally appeared, his lawyer used a technicality that is rarely used by lawyers to have the case dismissed.” Muscat said Grima’s lawyer knew that his own lawyer, Pawlu Lia, would be unavailable at the time.

Another lawyer from Lia’s office was outside the courtroom at 9am, a fact that was known by Grima’s lawyer, Muscat claimed. However, when the bailiffs finally called her in, she was indisposed.

“Grima’s lawyer, in agreement with his client, used this technicality to ask the Magistrate to dismiss the case. I have been told that, should lawyers start using this method, only a few court cases would progress.”

Muscat said “it appears that Grima was hardly willing to make his case, and found the first opportunity to have the case dismissed.”

The former PM said he and his legal team did not wish for this outcome, especially after months of waiting for Grima to appear.

“All this does not take away the fact that what was written is absolutely false and a lie,” Muscat said.

 

 

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