For the murder of top journalist and investigative journalist in Malta, two brothers were each sentenced to 40 years imprisonment.
George Degiorgio (59) and Alfred (57), had both denied that Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a car accident on the 16th of October 2017.
They both changed their pleas just hours after their trial started on Friday in a Valletta court.
Ms Caruana Galizia (53), an anti-corruption journalist, was covering suspected fraud in political, business and financial circles in Malta, when her car exploded in Mosta.
According to the court, the bomb was placed under the driver’s chair and detonated by George Degiorgio via a mobile telephone.
The explosion was powerful enough to send the wreckage of the car flying into a field and over a wall.
According to reports, the Degiorgio brothers were hired by a prominent Maltese businessman with ties to government.
A suspect has been arrested and will be tried at another time.
Edwina Grima, the trial judge, ordered the brothers to pay EUR50,000, (PS43,450), which is around one third of the EUR150,000, (PS130,460), payment they allegedly received for the execution. This was in addition to court costs.
After an unsuccessful attempt at negotiating a pardon, they changed their plea. This was in exchange for the naming of other high-profile alleged conspirators. These include a former minister to the government whose identity is not known.
Both brothers pleaded guilty for wilful murder, causing an explosive explosion that resulted in the death and illegal possession of explosives.
They also admitted to criminal conspiracy, financing, promoting, organizing, or organising an organization with the intent of committing criminal offences and active participation in a plot.
Vincent Muscat was sentenced earlier to 15 years imprisonment for his role in the plot against Ms Caruana Gallizia.
A number of lawsuits were filed against a leading journalist.
Ms. Caruana Galizia was hailed as a one-woman WikiLeaks. She had written extensively about corruption in Malta on her website Running Commentary.
She targeted former prime minister Joseph Muscat and his inner circle. They were accused of having tax havens in offshore companies, as revealed in the Panama Papers leak, one of the largest data breaches in human history.
The journalist did not overlook the activities of the opposition party.
She was currently facing over 40 libel suits at the time she died. These lawsuits are still being pursued posthumously.
After Yorgen Feech, a businessman, was arrested and accused of being complicit in the plot in 2019, Mr Muscat was forced from office. This sparked a series mass protests in Malta.
Fenech was a close associate of senior government officials and was charged with several offences, including conspiracy to murder in 2021.
He has denied all charges and no date has been set for his trial.
Melvin Theuma (a taxi driver) was a self-confessed intermediary. He was granted a presidential pardon for 2019 in return for providing evidence against Fenech, and other suspects.
Jamie Vella, Robert Agius and two other men are scheduled to be tried for allegedly providing the bomb.
Matthew Caruana Galizia (one of the journalists’ sons) said that he was relieved that the brothers Degiorgio had been convicted of and sentenced, but added that five years is too long to reach this stage of justice for the mother.
He said, “Now it’s all about the remaining cases.”
Maltese state is accused of murdering after creating a ‘culture for impunity’
A separate inquiry into the death of Ms Caruana Galizia in July 2013 revealed that was responsible for her murder, as it “created a culture of impunity”.
Although there is no evidence that the state was involved in her death, the report said that it must “bear responsibility”.
Robert Abela, Maltese Prime Minister, stated that the sentence had been passed in a statement shortly afterwards. He said: “This is a significant step forward, and to deliver justice in an instance that represents a dark chapter of Malta’s past.”
Dunha Mijactovic (the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner), lashed out at “lack of effective outcomes in establishing accountability” five-years after the murder.
To Mr Abela, the commissioner requested that urgent protection be provided to journalists in Malta.