Malta government carries responsibility for journalist's murder, inquiry finds


A sign reading "Daphne was right" is photographed at the Great Siege Square as people gather calling for the resignation of Joseph Muscat, following the arrest of one of the country's most prominent businessmen, as part of the investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Valletta, Malta November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

VALLETTA (Reuters) - An independent inquiry into the car bomb murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia found on Thursday that the state had to bear responsibility after creating a "culture of impunity".

Caruana Galizia was killed in a massive explosion as she drove out of her home on October 16, 2017.

Prosecutors believe top businessman Yorgen Fenech, who had close ties with senior government officials, masterminded the murder. Fenech, who is awaiting trial for association to murder, denies all responsibility.

Three men suspected of setting off the bomb were arrested in December 2017. One has since pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain and is serving a 15-year jail term. The other two are awaiting trial. The self-confessed middle-man has turned state witness and was granted a pardon.

The inquiry, conducted by one serving judge and two retired judges, found that a culture of impunity was created by the highest echelons of power within the government of the time.

"The tentacles of impunity then spread to other regulatory bodies and the police, leading to a collapse in the rule of law," said the panel's report, which was published by Prime Minister Robert Abela.

It said the state failed to recognise the real and immediate risks to Caruana Galizia's life and failed to take reasonable steps to avoid them.

It was clear, the inquiry board said, that the assassination was either intrinsically or directly linked to Caruana Galizia's investigative work.

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat resigned in January 2020 following Fenech's arrest. He was never accused of any wrongdoing. Media later also revealed close links between Fenech, ministers, and senior police officers.

The judges called for immediate action to rein in and regulate the links between politicians and big business.

Abela said in a tweet that the report required "mature" and objective analysis. "Lessons must be drawn and the reforms must continue with greater resolve," he said, without elaborating.

The inquiry heard evidence from the police, government officials, the Caruana Galizia family and journalists, among others.

(Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; Editing by Gavin Jones and Frances Kerry)

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