The state continues to persecute the witnesses instead of the perpetrators. Jonathan Ferris and Maria Efimova were today charged with perjury for providing information to the Egrant inquiry that the magistrate at the time was unable to check out. I’m not going to make the case for their defence. We can hear that from their lawyers if and when the case is finally heard in court.
Except that I will make the point that we should wonder what motivation Jonathan Ferris and Maria Efimova may have had to mislead the inquiry given that they volunteered to speak to it and were never suspected of any wrongdoing that the inquiry was looking into.
Pleasures yet to come. But not immediately.
The magistrate hearing the case against Ferris and Efimova today was Joe Mifsud, who was the international secretary of the Labour Party around the time that the substantial events investigated by the Egrant inquiry occurred.
The Times of Malta reports that “when the case began being heard before Magistrate Mifsud on Wednesday, lawyer Pawlu Lia asked the court for permission to be admitted as a parte civile in the case on behalf of the Muscats. His request was upheld. But then the magistrate proceeded to abstain from hearing the case owing to other pending proceedings before him.”
Hold it just a minute. Why does a magistrate recuse himself from hearing a case? Because the magistrate would feel that if they continue to hear the case that fact alone would prejudice unfavourably, or even possibly give an advantage to, the person accused. The magistrate abstains then as they consider themselves incapable of dealing fairly with the merits of the case.
But before announcing that he had decided he couldn’t act without causing prejudice against Maria Efimova, Joe Mifsud did just that. He decided to admit Joseph and Michelle Muscat as parte civile in the proceedings even though they are a third party.
Let’s be perfectly clear about this. The written decision announcing his abstention from hearing the case had already been written and typed out before the hearing of this morning started. Joe Mifsud knew he would end the hearing by saying he would not hear the case. Before he let anyone else know about the decision he had taken, he took the material decision of admitting the Muscats parte civile.
This is not examining whether Joseph and Michelle Muscat should be allowed by a magistrate hearing the case to be admitted as parte civile. It’s about a magistrate who declares himself too conflicted to take charge of the case, still taking the material decision of bringing the Muscats in.
Are we kidding? If another magistrate is to be found to replace Joe Mifsud who is less embroiled in the matter and therefore capable of hearing and deciding on the case, shouldn’t that other magistrate be the appropriate magistrate deciding on Pawlu Lia’s request for the admission of the Muscats as parte civile in the case?
The new magistrate hearing the case will have this decision on admitting the Muscats parte civile already in the file. The Muscats have no material evidence to give the proceedings against Jonathan Ferris and Maria Efimova. But their lawyer Pawlu Lia today reserved the right to bring them in to testify in the case. The political trial of Jonathan Ferris and Maria Efimova continues, while justice is thrown further back.
I can’t make up my mind if this is a procedural fluke, an idiotic decision or part of the general plan of harassment of witnesses against politicians by our scheming state. Perhaps the chief justice can find the time to choose between those three possibilities and act accordingly.