Monday 16 December 2019

Police must investigate Malta's PM, says family of slain reporter

Rally: People gather to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in Valletta, Malta, yesterday. Photo: Vincent Kesslerr
Rally: People gather to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in Valletta, Malta, yesterday. Photo: Vincent Kesslerr

Nick Squires

The family of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the murdered Maltese journalist, lodged an official request yesterday for the prime minister to be investigated by police over his links to the crime.

Opponents say Joseph Muscat is too compromised to preside over the investigation into the murder of Ms Caruana Galizia, who, after exposing corruption and sleaze in a blog, was blown up by a car bomb two years ago.

Mr Muscat has offered his resignation but said he would delay it until next month, in a move that has caused widespread anger on the island nation.

The journalist's family filed a judicial request, calling for police to question him and demanding that he have no further involvement in the inquiry into the assassination.

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Mr Muscat announced on national television on Sunday evening that he will step down, succumbing to two weeks of protests.

He said he would resign as leader of the ruling Labour Party on January 12 and prime minister "in the days after".

Protesters, opposition MPs, civil society groups and the journalist's family demanded that he step down immediately and vowed to keep up the pressure with demonstrations in the capital, Valletta.

They say 45-year-old Mr Muscat is too closely involved in the murder investigation to remain in office, after three of his close associates - two ministers and his chief of staff - were forced to step aside last week.

Keith Schembri, the chief of staff, was arrested in connection with the murder, but then released. Police said they had no reason to hold him any longer. He denies any wrongdoing.

"Muscat has delayed his resignation in an attempt to continue protecting himself and Schembri. There is no alternative explanation," the Caruana Galizia family said in a statement.

"His continued tenure as prime minister is intolerable to anyone who cares about justice. His role into the investigation into our wife and mother's assassination is unlawful."

The prime minister has insisted he is acting with impartiality, and that it is under his watch that three men were arrested and charged with detonating the car bomb that killed Ms Caruana Galizia. He said he had "kept my word" that justice would be done in the investigation. But one of her three sons, Matthew, pledged "people will be out in the streets again" in the coming days.

Adrian Delia, the leader of the opposition Nationalist Party, said: "Muscat does not understand the anger of the people. Justice cannot be served with an illegitimate prime minister at the helm."

'The Times of Malta' said yesterday that the prime minister's decision to delay his resignation was "self-serving" and "extraordinarily irresponsible". It said the five weeks until the resignation "give too much time for the prime minister and his cronies to hide any incriminating evidence".

The paper added: "Anger is rightly verging on rage among the growing ranks of activists and protesters."

Irish Independent

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