Two brothers were on Friday sentenced to jail terms of 40 years each for the car bomb murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who uncovered corruption in high places and whose killing sparked an international furor and forced the resignation of the Maltese prime minister.
Caruana Galizia, 53, was one of Malta’s most prominent public figures. Once described as a “one-woman WikiLeaks,” she was a vocal critic of the country’s political elite in her blog, accusing them of cronyism and corruption.
“There are crooks everywhere you look now,” she wrote hours before the attack that killed her on Oct. 16, 2017. “The situation is desperate.”
The sentences handed down to George and Alfred Degiorgio came on the first day of their trial — and nearly five years to the day that she was murdered.
Friday’s proceedings had seen the pair plead not guilty in front of a judge in the morning, before changing their pleas hours later.
“Today’s judgement is another important step towards justice for the Caruana Galizia family,” Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela wrote on Twitter. “We remain determined to see full justice delivered for the family and for Malta.”
In a statement released by his office, he said: “In parallel, the government will continue implementing important reforms to strengthen further the rule of law principles and democracy in Malta.”
The delayed trial of the brothers — charged with homicide, causing a fatal explosion and criminal conspiracy, among other crimes — began with a dramatic outburst from defendant George Degiorgio.
“Don’t you know who killed Daphne?” George Degiorgio called to the prosecution upon entering court. “Your friends, those you were shoulder to shoulder with... Go investigate them!”
A third assassin, Vincent Muscat, last year pleaded guilty and was jailed for 15 years.
Judge Edwina Grima had refused a defense request to suspend the trial, which had been based on what the defense said was a lack of time to prepare.
The Degiorgio brothers last year said they were prepared to implicate a former government minister in exchange for a pardon, which was not granted.
George Degiorgio confessed to the crime during an interview from jail in July, calling it “just business.”
However, early on Friday, he repeated his previously stated not guilty plea before the court.
Alfred Degiorgio, seated in a wheelchair, said: “I have nothing to say,” which the court recorded as a not guilty plea.
Caruana Galizia’s assassination sparked outrage around the world and put Malta, the EU’s smallest member state, in the spotlight over its apparent rule-of-law failings.
Joseph Muscat resigned as prime minister over the affair in January 2020, following mass protests over his perceived efforts to protect friends and allies from the investigation.
A 2021 public inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s murder found the state should bear responsibility for her death, by creating a “climate of impunity” for those who wanted to silence her.
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