The Malta Independent 28 June 2022, Tuesday

Judge dismisses Vince Muscat's claims of 'hidden conspiracy' behind 2020 pardon refusals

Tuesday, 3 May 2022, 13:34 Last update: about 3 months ago

A judge has dismissed a case filed two years ago by Vince Muscat, in which he had claimed conspiracy behind the decisions to refuse several of his pardon requests.

Muscat, the only man so far that was jailed for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, had claimed that his pardon requests were refused to protect the “hidden interests” of third parties, amongst them politicians.

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The First Hall of the Civil Court, presided by Mr. Justice Francesco Depasquale handed down judgement this morning, in the case which had been filed back in September 2020 by Muscat against the Prime Minister, the Commissioner of Police, the Attorney General, the State Advocate and the Minister for Justice.

In his application to the court, Muscat had claimed to have given the police a wealth of information, identifying “a web of several individuals, prominent and not, involved in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and other crimes by persons who had not yet been mentioned or charged and who would lead to the whole truth in the resolution of these several cases.” 

The information had been imparted during the course of several meetings in January 2020, he said. However, Muscat claimed, during the months between February and September 2020, the police inspectors investigating the Caruana Galizia murder had been “making excuses” not to meet him again to conclude their report on this information.

Muscat had insisted that he had passed on all the information he had about the Caruana Galizia murder and other crimes, accusing the investigators of “playing for time, in the hidden interests of third parties, some prominent and others not, some of them politicians involved in the crimes.”

He surmised that the cause of this delaying tactic was either because the investigators were not being allowed to work due to fears and threats or because they were being held back because the “whole truth could affect the stability of the current government administration and consequently, it could be that in their inaction, they are protecting some individual or individuals in the hiding of their actions.”

In his September 2020 court application, Muscat’s lawyer said he had made several attempts to communicate with the office of the President, but had not received any reply. 

He argued that this was not down to simple bureaucracy but was a “further attempt to protect certain prominent individuals and third parties who had not yet been investigated.” These individuals were part of a “small circle of powerful people,” he had alleged.

The State Advocate, Attorney General and Commissioner of Police had filed their replies to the application, arguing that the request was effectively one for a judicial review of the granting or otherwise of a presidential pardon, a matter regulated by the Constitution, which states that advice relating to actions taken by the President of Malta was not subject to scrutiny by any court. “Above all, the prerogative of mercy is in and of itself not subject to review.”

The Constitution specified the instances where the President could exercise his prerogative of mercy but “certainly…does not grant anyone involved in a crime the right to a presidential pardon, more so when the information allegedly on offer is not corroborated by other evidence,” it was argued.

On 9 October 2020, the Prime Minister had also filed a reply, arguing that he was not a legitimate defendant in the proceedings and requesting he be non-suited.

On 19 February 2021 Vince Muscat had asked the court to allow him to testify in the next sitting on the 24th, behind closed doors, also requesting that his testimony be recorded electronically. These requests had been upheld.

But when the sitting began on 24 February, the court had been informed by the defence that the day before, Muscat had pleaded guilty in the Criminal Court to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and had been granted a pardon over his part in the murder of Carmel Chircop.

His lawyer told the court that despite these developments, his client had made separate requests for pardons relating to other crimes, requesting that the proceedings continue.

This was objected to by the State Advocate, who argued that Muscat no longer had juridical interest in the present case, about the refusal of his pardon, as he had now admitted his guilt and had, in fact, received a pardon.

In its decision, dismissing  Muscat’s case, the court said the law was clear and left no room for interpretation in that decisions by the President regarding pardons were not subject to any type of scrutiny by the courts. Mr. Justice Depasquale observed that judicial interpretation of the relevant article of the constitution had been consistent for the past 20 years

The judge added that despite the gravity of the crime being investigated, no person involved in a crime should expect to have a sacrosanct right to a presidential pardon, as the applicant appears to be insisting, together with his previous legal counsel.”

Neither could Muscat use this presumption “as part of a conjecture, assisted by a media always thirsty for a story and publicity, intended solely to try and escape his responsibility for criminal acts he had carried out or participated in,” added the judge.

A country governed by the rule of law, as is Malta, expects that whoever commits a crime is to finally answer for his criminal acts and if sufficient evidence is found, be found guilty.

Only in this way can the respect for the law be assured and observed by everyone. Then, if that person chooses to assist the prosecution in finding other people guilty, something he is always free to do, this can be reflected in the final decision.”

“The court cannot but observe that, if the applicant truly wants to help the police solve the crimes which he possesses information about, there is nothing holding him back from actually providing this information, if necessary before the competent court, so that justice finally reigns. There is no need for a Presidential pardon for the applicant to testify - if he truly is willing to cooperate and help!”

The judge dismissed all of Muscat’s claims, also ordering him to bear the costs of the case.

 

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