Malta's government responsible for murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, inquiry finds

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By Euronews  with AP
Flowers and a candle lie in front of a portrait of slain investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia during a vigil outside the law courts in Valletta, Malta.
Flowers and a candle lie in front of a portrait of slain investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia during a vigil outside the law courts in Valletta, Malta.   -  Copyright  Credit: AP

Malta's government must "bear responsibility" for the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, an independent inquiry has found.

The probe said that Maltese authorities had created a "culture of impunity" that led to her killing.

Caruana Galizia died in a car bombing in October 2017 as she was allegedly investigating corruption in a business linked to a wealthy businessman, Yorgen Fenech.

Fenech — who had close ties to the government — is the alleged mastermind behind the assassination and has been charged with complicity in her murder. He denies any responsibility.

On Thursday, a public inquiry committee said that although Malta's government did not play a direct role, it had failed to protect Caruana Galizia from threats to her life.

The report also said her assassination was clearly linked to her investigative work.

A "culture of impunity" had developed in the highest levels of the Maltese government in the years leading up to 2017, the committee found.

This culture had also spread to other parts of the state, such as the police, and led to a "breakdown in the rule of law", the report added.

The serious allegations were published by the office of Prime Minister Robert Abela on Thursday.

"The report merits mature analysis beyond partisan arguments," Abela said on Twitter. "Lessons must be drawn and the reforms must continue with greater resolve."

The public inquiry into Caruana Galizia's murder, which included 93 hearings, began in June 2019 following pressure from the European Union.

The Caruana Galizia family said in a statement that the inquiry's findings confirm the family's beliefs that her death was a "direct result" of the collapse of the rule of law and "the impunity that the state provided to the corrupt network she was reporting on"

"We hope that its findings will lead to the restoration of the rule of law in Malta," the family added.

One man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to murdering Caruana Galizia. Two other suspected hitmen have been charged with planting the bomb and are awaiting trial

Another suspect, the alleged "middleman", has agreed to reveal details of the plot to kill the investigative journalist and was granted a pardon.

Malta's former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat resigned in January 2020 following Fenech's arrest and widespread protests but was never accused of any wrongdoing.

In a statement on Facebook, Muscat tried to distance his administration from "the state of impunity" mentioned in the report and pointed the finger at previous administrations.

The former PM said the arrests of the suspects months after the murder disproved "any impression of impunity that the alleged perpetrators may have had."

"I maintain that there was impunity in cases before my term in office, where high profile crimes were committed but nobody was ever prosecuted."

"There can never be any justification for the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia," he added.

Additional sources • DPA