Caruana Galizia family demand investigation into Malta PM's role

By Jennifer Rankin in Brussels

The family of Daphne Caruana Galizia is calling for Malta’s prime minister Joseph Muscat to be investigated as part of ongoing inquiries into the journalist’s murder.

Muscat has announced he will quit as prime minister in January, after investigators alleged links between his administration and those who ordered the killing.

The embattled leader told reporters on Monday he intended to resign “more or less” on 12 January and would limit himself to handling day-to-day administration until then. But his refusal to go quickly has angered the Caruana Galizia family, who vowed to use all legal means to ensure he had no say over the murder investigation.

On Monday, one of Caruana Galizia’s sons, Matthew Caruana Galizia, confirmed that the family was calling for an investigation into Muscat’s role.

The family’s legal letter, drafted in Maltese and first reported by the Times of Malta, also urged authorities to ensure all relevant evidence was preserved, amid fears vital documents could be destroyed.

In parliament on Monday, Muscat defended his government’s handling of the murder and called for national unity. “The case showed that Malta’s institutions work and everyone is equal before the law,” he said.

Separately it emerged that one of the three men accused of Caruana Galizia’s murder has appealed to Maltese president George Vella for a pardon in exchange for “providing all the information he knows on various facts”.

Vincent Muscat (no relation to the prime minister) wrote to Vella arguing that an earlier plea for mercy was not handled in a “proper, correct and just manner”.

Protesters gathered on Monday evening near Malta’s parliament on Freedom Square, where police had erected a maze of metal barriers to keep away crowds. Footage on social media showed the crowd booing as MPs entering the building, or chanting “assassins, resign now”.

The political crisis is expected to continue as a European parliament delegation begins an urgent two-day fact-finding mission on Tuesday. The seven-strong group of MEPs will meet the prime minister, president, as well as Malta’s justice minister, the police commissioner, parliamentary speaker, NGOs and the Caruana Galizia family.

“Malta is a part of Europe, this concerns us all,” tweeted veteran Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie in ’t Veld, who is leading the mission. “Justice and truth must now prevail. There should not be impunity, no cover ups, and no culprit should escape trial … As [an] EU member state Malta must uphold the rule of law.”

The European commission declined to comment on the investigation, but said it expected an “independent and through investigation and that the persons responsible for this crime must be brought to justice”.

Malta’s political elite has been shaken as the murder inquiry picked up pace in recent days, more than two years after the crusading investigative journalist was assassinated by a car bomb.

On Saturday, Malta’s richest man, the property and gambling tycoon Yorgen Fenech, was charged with complicity in the murder. He has pleaded not guilty to that charge and four others, including membership of a criminal gang. Investigators say they have uncovered links between Fenech and Muscat’s former chief of staff.

Keith Schembri resigned his government job last week, before being arrested and later released from police custody. But Fenech’s lawyers have told the courts there is material which allegedly links Schembri to the conspiracy. Schembri has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.