The general line I try to take is to ignore people like Christian Grima. It didn’t start that way. When he first came back from wherever he was, I thought his motivations were genuine. On that basis I reacted to things he said that did not make sense to me. Then I regretted my reaction. Then I stopped thinking his motivations were genuine.
Together with Simon Mercieca, Christian Grima is managing to sow a very dangerous, malicious and insidious narrative. Allow me to explain.
Today he posted yet another Facebook post casting doubts on the motivations of the “parte civile” in the criminal cases brought against Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murderers. Let’s not beat about the bush. “Parte civile” is court speak for the victim’s family, themselves victims of these alleged criminals who took their mother, wife, sister and daughter away from them. When Christian Grima casts doubts on the motivations of Jason Azzopardi, he’s wearing a silken glove while he casts doubt on the motivation of Jason Azzopardi’s clients, the sons, husband, sisters and parents of Daphne.
The line that Christian Grima and – separately from, though in harmony with, him – Simon Mercieca are pursuing, at least from what they publish, is that somehow Daphne’s family have some motivation to cover for Keith Schembri and to help that prince of darkness avoid facing justice.
Never mind for the moment that Christian Grima is finding ways of throwing this accusation at Occupy Justice, at me, at Repubblika and at anyone who has actually rather gone out of their way to demand justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia. As far as we’re concerned his aspersions may be offensive and moderately hurtful but they are nothing worse or better than what we get on a daily basis from your average Labour troll.
But when he throws this malice at people who in Daphne did not just lose a good read or a woman they admired, but the closest and dearest person in their life, Christian Grima is no better than the Labour trolls who accused Matthew Caruana Galizia of parking his mother’s car outside the gate to help her killers get to it and passed her laptop to the German police to help cover up for her killers, implicitly himself.
I say this not because I think it is going to impress Chris Grima into changing his discourse. I would have done that if I still thought his motivations were such as to be open to sense and persuasion. But they aren’t so he isn’t.
I’m rather addressing this simple observation to the people that can’t seem to help themselves from being impressed by Christian Grima’s brand of put-upon indignation.
What is Christian Grima doing? He is helping Yorgen Fenech implant the collective idea that Yorgen Fenech is some sort of Wrong Man, a fall guy, and that there exists a widespread conspiracy that includes the victim’s family to help the real killer avoid justice. Why does Yorgen Fenech want this idea to spread? Because he wants it to reach jurors who will eventually try him, take pity on him and acquit him.
The Caruana Galizia family owe no one any explanation about how they pursue truth and justice for their Daphne. But to suggest they are covering up for Keith Schembri is not merely ridiculous but also evil in the extreme.
In December 2019, Daphne’s family challenged the police to investigate Melvin Theuma’s claims that Keith Schembri had leaked information to him on the murder investigation. That’s a criminal offence that is now the subject of a magisterial inquiry. Technically, the police should have started that themselves but you know how it is, what with Lawrence Cutajar running the show at the time. The family had to step up and to the job the nation’s institutions failed to do.
And then in August 2020 they challenged the present police chief Angelo Gafà to investigate Keith Schembri for covering up evidence after his phone magically disappeared. The police should have done that. They didn’t. The family stepped up and did the job for them.
Daphne’s family, as frankly have all activists that have campaigned for truth and justice in this case without any reason to use this crime for their personal vendettas or to divert the attention away from one suspect and cast it onto another, have made one consistent, unswerving demand: that the police pursue the evidence wherever it takes them, no matter the consequences.
Christian Grima suggested, for example, that the cross-examination of Vincent Muscat il-Koħħu this week was meant to pursue the Chris Cardona line in order to detract attention from the Keith Schembri connection. This can only be acceptable logic to people who are throwing occasional and superficial glances at what is going on in court but not really following proceedings closely.
Yes, Vince Muscat named Keith Schembri. The witness said that on the eve of his arrest David Gatt showed up at the Marsa shed he used together with the Degiorgios and from beyond the gate he grinned and gave them a thumbs up. Vince Muscat says he asked one of the Degiorgio brothers what the thumbs up meant. And the answer he got was that the thumbs up stands for “in-number one ta’ Malta”, Keith Schembri.
Is that something Chris Grima wanted to pursue in cross examination? I’m sorry I know he likes to remind his readers that I’m no professor of criminal law, or even a lawyer at all. I often remind my readers of that as well.
But even I know that the statement about Vince Muscat’s recollections of Ġorġ iċ-Ċiniż’s interpretation of David Gatt’s codified sign language about who was at the time Malta’s “number one” and how that has anything to do with the price of eggs, does not amount to any knowledge on the part of the witness of any sort of involvement by Keith Schembri in the murder. It doesn’t acquit Keith Schembri, of course. But it doesn’t help any case saying that he is, either.
On the other hand, Vince Muscat spoke of several incidents connecting his direct knowledge with Chris Cardona’s possible involvement: repeated visits to his haunts, a personal interaction some time back before Chris Cardona was a minister, and consistent information he was given by his accomplices. Some might say all that too is hearsay and insufficient to pin anything on Chris Cardona. Be that as it may it amounts to much, much more than anything Vince Muscat has so far said about Keith Schembri and it justified further questioning in the view of the family of the victim. They exercise their right which is provided by law and which does not exist to represent anybody’s interest but their own, and certainly not the interest of someone accused of killing their relative.
Not for a minute does it occur to me that I know anyone on the right side of the fight for justice, starting from Daphne’s family to anyone who stood 4,000-woman behind the front line of a protest, might have any reason at all to prefer for anyone that could be involved in this murder – Keith Schembri included – to get away with it and walk away.
It’s not like Chris Grima thinks any differently. Consider the criticism about the “parte civile” aligning itself with the prosecution yesterday morning when the State objected to the playing of all the tapes recorded by Melvin Theuma before Melvin Theuma is cross-examined by William Cuschieri, the lawyer representing the Degiorgio brothers.
This needs a little explaining too. The innuendo being spread by Yorgen Fenech’s fellow travellers is that the tapes need to be played out in their entirety because there’s something in there that could exonerate Yorgen Fenech and allow us all to determine the real culprit of this crime.
This is completely absurd. The tapes amount to some 12 hours, which with, questions, explanations, clarifications, cross examinations and so on could easily amount to some two to four months of sessions at this magisterial stage.
The criminal court presided by Judge Edwina Grima yesterday decreed that the Degiorgio’s defence should be able to play out in court any extract from the recordings that it needs to sustain any questions they may have for Melvin Theuma. If there’s a bit that implicates someone else, by all means let them play it out. But the court ruled that playing the entire recording for a silent audience is not to happen. It is a waste of time and that’s not just a concern with boredom.
Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit yesterday had that decree to work on. She had no discretion to change the instructions she was given by the criminal court. The prosecutor Philip Galea Farrugia pointed that out. Jason Azzopardi appearing for the family agreed with him.
That’s what happened. Not some cover up for Keith Schembri with the connivance of the prosecution and the victim’s family.
I owe you two explanations here.
First, why would the Degiorgio brothers insist on the full recordings being played out? Because they need time. The law is clear. Whatever the circumstances, if their trial has not started within 30 months of their indictment they must be released on bail. It doesn’t matter how dangerous they may be, no matter how high the risk is that they use their time on bail to inflict revenge on the witnesses appearing against them or the court officials prosecuting them, no matter how likely it is that they use any mafia contacts they may have to escape the country and justice for good, they will need to be allowed to walk out of prison.
The indictment against the Degiorgio brothers was handed down in July 2019. That means this trial has to start by December 2021 or they walk free. It has taken so long because Malta’s judicial process is too slow for crimes of this complexity. But it has also taken so long because the evidence stage had to be reopened twice for Melvin Theuma first and Vince Muscat now to add to the prosecution’s initial case against the Degiorgios.
The second explanation is to justify why I add Yorgen Fenech’s motivation to the actions of William Cuschieri who is representing the Degiorgios. I do not have a clear idea why Yorgen Fenech wants proceedings against the Degiorgios delayed. I cannot know or even suspect all that has been or is being agreed behind the scenes.
I can speak of what can be seen. My colleagues covering the courtroom battleground every day see Yorgen Fenech’s lawyer Charles Mercieca present at every session of the cases against the Degiorgios. They see Charles Mercieca and William Cuschieri consulting each other in the courtroom frequently. They noticed that yesterday Charles Mercieca was exceptionally absent during the hearing. That’s after he had seen the night before Judge Edwina Grima’s decree that made the next day’s session academic and his presence unnecessary.
I also recall the mystery from 2018 and 2019 when the defence of the Degiorgio brothers was using tech and communications consultants from the United States that must have cost stupid amounts of money. I remember raising the question on who might have been paying for all this until Yorgen Fenech was arrested when it seemed pointless to continue to ask.
Of course, when Chris Grima takes it out on the Caruana Galizia family lawyer for not squeezing out of witnesses the “proof” that Yorgen Fenech is some form of fall guy, he should most certainly know that he is barking up the wrong tree.
If Yorgen Fenech is truly the wrong man, if all that bluster when he was arrested that he is a patsy in a conspiracy managed by Keith Schembri has any truth to it, why are Yorgen Fenech and his fellow travellers waiting for the victim’s family and their supporters to do the work for them?
Yorgen Fenech has a protected right to testify in the pre-trial evidence stage of the case against him. He can raise his hand and ask the magistrate to take the witness stand. He can speak of what he knows, testify against the people he says are the real masterminds of this crime, bring Keith Schembri down and whoever else was involved in this. Let him be assured that no one would be happier to see them pay for their crimes than those who genuinely want nothing more and nothing less than truth and justice for Daphne.