Malta marks the 5th anniversary of the murder of a journalist and calls for justice

VALLETTA, Malta – Malta celebrated the fifth anniversary of the car bombing of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on Sunday, with calls for justice and praise for the courage of a woman whose death has shocked Europe and exposed a culture of impunity over the Mediterranean island nation.

More than 1,000 Maltese residents joined Caruana Galizia’s relatives, activists and the Maltese Speaker of the European Parliament on an overnight march and vigil outside a makeshift memorial opposite the Valletta courthouse. Also present was the sister of Italian crusader anti-mafia investigator Giovanni Falcone, who was himself murdered by mobs in a bombing in Sicily in 1992.

The anniversary came just two days after two key suspects reversed course on the first day of their trial and pleaded guilty to committing the murder. But other cases are still pending in Maltese courts and both government and opposition leaders have called for justice.

Caruana Galizia had written extensively about suspected corruption in political and business circles in the European nation and was killed on October 16, 2017 when a bomb placed under her car exploded as she was driving near her home. The murder shocked Europe and sparked angry protests in Malta.

A 2021 public inquiry report found that the Maltese state “must take responsibility” for the murder due to the culture of impunity that emanated from the highest levels of government. But just last month, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner denounced “the lack of effective results in establishing accountability”.

During the night vigil, one of Caruana Galizia’s nieces, Megan Mallia, read a message on behalf of her family which said that the assassination of an anti-corruption investigative journalist such as her aunt “deprives people of their right to understand the reality in which they live.”

The men who ended Daphne’s life knew it, she said. “They feared neither the authorities of the country nor their own conscience. They feared the thousands who chose to light a candle to chase away the darkness.

Caruana Galizia, 53, was a prominent Maltese investigative journalist who targeted members of then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s inner circle whom she accused of disclosing offshore companies in tax havens in the leak of the Panama Papers. It also targeted the opposition. When she was killed, she was facing more than 40 libel suits.

“Throughout her life, Daphne Caruana Galizia has always followed one principle in her investigative stories: she always did what she was required to do. Not what benefited her. Not what was practical. Not what was popular. But what was right,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola told those present at the vigil.

The anniversary came two days after the opening of the trial of brothers George Degiorgio, 59, and Alfred Degiorgio, 57, the alleged hitmen accused of carrying out the attack. After several hours in court, they quashed their pleas and pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 40 years in prison each. The conviction brought the number of people serving sentences to three, after Vincent Muscat pleaded guilty last year to his part in the murder and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Yorgen Fenech, a prominent businessman with ties to the former government, is awaiting trial after his 2021 indictment on charges of alleged complicity in murder and conspiracy to commit murder. His arrest in 2019 sparked a series of mass protests around the country that culminated in the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Fenech had pleaded not guilty to all charges in the pretrial evidence compilation. Two other men have been charged with supplying the bomb and are currently the subject of a pre-trial compilation of evidence. They pleaded not guilty.

A confessed middleman, taxi driver Melvin Theuma, won a presidential pardon in 2019 in exchange for testifying.

Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna opened Sunday’s anniversary commemoration by celebrating a mass at Bidjna Church near where Caruana Galizia lived, saying killing can never be ‘business as usual’ and emphasizing the need for justice, even when it makes the powerful uncomfortable.

Afterwards, activists, family members and Metula presided over a silent rally at the site of the bombing. They planted a banner bearing the inscription “Justice” in the ground next to a large poster representing the journalist’s face and laid flowers in the shape of the number five. They were joined by Maria Falcone, whose brother Giovanni and his wife, as well as three bodyguards were killed by a bomb planted on a Sicilian highway on May 23, 1992.

Falcone then thanked the crowd at the vigil for turning out in such large numbers, saying their presence showed the killing of Caruana Galizia would not be in vain.

She urged the Maltese to continue, saying Italy had paid the price due to its terrible history of organized crime. “I want you to take our society as an example to understand what a huge evil the mafia is, and the even greater evil that is the relationship and agreement between the mafia and politics,” she said. declared.

“As Giovanni used to say, ‘Do your job at all costs,'” his sister said. “Giovanni and Daphne did, but now our job is to remember them day after day.”

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