Malta court rejects bid to stop FBI testimony in journalist murder case

FILE PHOTO: People hold up pictures of assassinated anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia during a vigil and demonstration marking seven months since her murder in a car bomb, at her makeshift memorial outside the Courts of Justice in Valletta, Malta May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi/File Photo

VALLETTA: A Maltese court on Monday dismissed an attempt by one of the suspects in the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia to stop an FBI team testifying in pre-trial proceedings.

Galizia, an anti-corruption blogger, was killed by a car bomb last October. The bomb is believed to have been triggered by a signal from a mobile phone and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been helping Maltese authorities to solve the case.

Three people have been charged with carrying out the murder but police have not identified who ordered it. The three people deny the charges.

One of the three, Alfred Degiorgio, tried to have the FBI barred from giving evidence in the case on the grounds that it has worked with a court-appointed Maltese IT expert, Martin Bajada, who has a historic conviction for theft and fraud.

“Dr Bajada should never have been appointed in the first place and should never have been allowed to work alongside the FBI experts,” a lawyer for Degiorgio said, adding that his client’s rights would be prejudiced if the foreign experts were allowed to testify.

In her ruling, Judge Lorraine Schembri Orland described Degiorgio’s attempt to stop the FBI from giving evidence as “frivolous and vexatious”.

Maurizio Cordina, a lawyer representing Malta’s Attorney General, said the case was “a desperate maneuver by Mr Degiorgio to delay, if not block” the trial, adding that Bajada had simply gathered evidence and had not worked with the FBI.

The case against Degiorgio is built mostly around intercepts of mobile phone data compiled by the FBI and Bajada.

The FBI is due to give evidence in the case on Tuesday. The Times of Malta reported that Bajada pleaded guilty in 1993 in a London court to charges of theft and fraud and received a two-year suspended sentence.