Hitman gets 15 years for murdering Daphne Caruana Galzia, three others arrested for supplying the bomb

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 24 February 2021.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes developments in the murder case of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta, where one of three accused hitmen has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after entering a guilty plea, and three men have been arrested under suspicion of supplying the bomb that took Caruana Galizia’s life. However, these nascent steps towards justice are long overdue, and underscore the urgent need for full justice for this horrific crime.

On 23 February, a Maltese court sentenced Vincent Muscat to 15 years in prison and ordered him to pay 42,000 EUR in court expenses after he pled guilty to involvement in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017 – including by placing the bomb that killed her. Muscat is one of three accused hitmen who has been detained since December 2017 in connection with the assassination, for which brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio remain in custody, continuing to deny their involvement.

On the same day, three men were arrested under suspicion of supplying the bomb used to kill Caruana Galizia: brothers Adrian and Robert Agius, and their associate Jamie Vella. All three were among the 10 men initially arrested in connection with the assassination on 4 December 2017, but had been released without charge. They were included in an October 2018 report by RSF and The Shift News assessing the Maltese authorities’ failings in the case at the one-year mark.

“These latest developments represent nascent steps towards justice for the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia; however, this progress is long overdue, calling into question why it has taken more than three years to get to this point. Despite the sentencing of Vincent Muscat, still no one has been brought to trial in this case. It is now more urgent than ever that everyone involved in every aspect of this horrific crime be identified and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. RSF remains fully committed to the fight for full justice for Daphne,” said RSF’s Director of International Campaigns Rebecca Vincent.

Caruana Galizia’s family expressed in a statement delivered by their lawyer that they hoped this step would begin to lead towards full justice, noting that the “macabre murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia was intentional and should have been prevented.”

It is unclear why the sudden progress in the murder case has been so slow in coming. Vincent Muscat had first requested a presidential pardon in exchange for information more than two years ago – a request that was ultimately rejected by Prime Minister Robert Abela in January 2021. Abela now claims the latest developments indicate “this is a country where the rule of law truly prevails” – in sharp contradiction to the findings of expert international bodies such as the Venice Commission and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Accused mastermind Yorgen Fenech also remains in custody in connection with the assassination, while the compilation of evidence against him continues. Self-confessed middleman Melvin Theuma testified in court for the first time three weeks ago, following extensive injuries sustained in July, including a slit throat, which police attributed to self-harm. The independent public inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s assassination also continues to review evidence.

Malta is ranked 81st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index, having fallen 34 places since Caruana Galizia’s assassination in 2017.

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Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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