The trial comes five years after the killing of Caruana Galizia, a renowned anti-corruption journalist, in a car bomb.
The trial of two brothers accused of the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has opened five years after the anti-corruption reporter was killed in a massive car bomb explosion outside her home.
Alfred and George Degiorgio are charged with setting off the explosive device that killed the 53-year-old journalist. The defendants, who face life imprisonment if convicted, pleaded not guilty.
The courtroom in the capital, Valetta, was packed on Friday with Caruana Galizia’s family members sitting at the front of the public gallery.
In an interview with Reuters news agency earlier this year, George confessed to the crime. A lawyer for the brothers also said the two men were seeking a pardon in return for divulging “everything we know about other murders, bombs and crimes”.
Their request for a pardon has not been accepted and the jury of five men and four women have been instructed to consider only what they hear in the courtroom.
According to the indictment, George set off the deadly bomb from a yacht berthed off Malta’s coast as Alfred and another accomplice, Vincent Muscat, acted as spotters. Caruana Galizia died instantly in the blast on October 16, 2017.
“Parts of her body were flung out of the car, while others remained inside the burning vehicle,” the document reads.
The Degiorgios brothers and Muscat were arrested in December 2017 and have been behind bars since. Muscat admitted his involvement in a 2021 plea bargain in return for information and is serving a 15-year jail term.
The long-awaited trial comes after an independent inquiry conducted by one serving and two retired judges, who unveiled a culture of impunity created by the highest echelons of power within the government of the time. The result of the inquiry, published in July last year, suggested that the “tentacles of impunity” stretching from regulatory bodies to the police led to a “collapse in the rule of law”.
It also said the state had failed to take reasonable steps to avoid real and immediate risks to Caruana Galizia’s life. It was clear, read the report, that the assassination was either intrinsically or directly linked to Caruana Galizia’s investigative work.
Much of the case is being built around testimony and phone conversation recordings by the murder plot middleman, Melvin Theuma, who was granted a presidential pardon in return for information late in 2019.
He alleged the plot was commissioned by top businessman Yorgen Fenech, who led a consortium that was controversially awarded a government contract to build a power station in 2015.
Fenech was arrested in November 2019 and is also awaiting trial.
Caruana Galizia had revealed the existence of a secret company which allegedly was meant to funnel funds to Panama-registered companies belonging to then-Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi and the government chief of staff, Keith Schembri. No evidence that money changed hands has been produced.
A Reuters investigation after her death had established that the company belonged to Fenech.
Fenech’s arrest led to the resignation of Schembri and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Both deny any involvement in the journalist’s murder and have not been prosecuted.
The fifth anniversary of the murder will be marked with a rally on Sunday which will be addressed by European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.