Inquiry into Malta journalist's slaying faults state

·3 min read

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — An independent inquiry into the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia released on Thursday has found that the Maltese state “has to bear responsibility” for the assassination due the culture of impunity that emanated from the highest levels of government.

Caruana Galizia’s family had sought the inquiry into the Oct. 16, 2017 car bombing near the family home in Malta. The murder in the small EU country sent shockwaves felt not just in Malta, but throughout Europe.

The inquiry found that there was no evidence that the state played a direct role in the assassination, but said the state “has to bear responsibility ... by creating an atmosphere of impunity, generated from the highest levels in the heart of the administration of (the prime minister's office) and, like an octopus, spread to other entities, like regulatory authorities and the police, leading to a collapse of the rule of law.”

The report said the state and its entities had failed to recognize the real risk to Caruana Galizia’s life, given the threats she had lived under, and also failed to take measures to avoid the risk, the report found.

The Caruana Galizia family said in a statement that the inquiry’s findings confirm the family's conviction “that her assassination 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.

Yorgen Fenech, a prominent businessman who had ties with some government officials, is alleged by prosecutors to have been the mastermind of the killing. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of alleged complicity in the killing and allegedly organizing and financing the bombing.

In addition, three men have been charged with carrying out the attack, two with providing explosives and another with being the middleman. Trials are under way. One of those charged with carrying out the attack has admitted his role, as has the middleman.

Joseph Muscat, Malta's former prime minister, stepped down in late 2019 following protests that pressed for the truth about the assassination of the investigative journalist, whose reports targeted Muscat’s administration but also the opposition.

In a statement on Facebook, Muscat sought to distance his administration from “the state of impunity” mentioned in the report.

He noted that the arrests of the alleged hitmen within two months and the alleged mastermind a few months later “disproves any impression of impunity that the alleged perpetrators may have had.” And he pointed the finger at previous administrations, during which he said “high profile crimes were committed, but nobody was every prosecuted.”

The inquiry report made a number of recommendations to improve laws and better protect journalists in Malta.

During a press conference, Prime Minister Robert Abela, who took office last year, apologized to Caruana Galizia’s family for the state's "serious shortcomings.”

He said earlier that lessons must be taken from the report and reforms need to be pursued “with greater resolve.”

Kevin Schembri Orland, The Associated Press

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