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Yorgen Fenech offered to testify against government ministers in connection with the murder of a journalist that has plunged Malta into a political crisis. The prime minister, however, denied a pardon to the businessman.
Maltese businessman and murder suspect Yorgen Fenech offered on Thursday to testify against top politicians in case of the 2017 murder of a journalist in exchange for a presidential pardon, according to Reuters news agency and The Times of Malta.
The Maltese Cabinet met for an emergency meeting on Thursday evening as the ongoing murder probe threatens to destabilize the government. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced early Friday that no pardon had been granted to Fenech.
Fenech officially requested the pardon in exchange for more information, after he was arrested on his yacht last week.
The lawyers for Fenech said Muscat should not be involved in deciding on a pardon because he was among "persons who may have an interest for such a pardon not to be granted."
Fenech had previously named Muscat's former right-hand man and chief of staff Keith Schembri as the mastermind of Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder, according to police sources, who cited Fenech's interrogation.
Schembri was released late Thursday without charge, after resigning and being arrested on Tuesday. He was one of three government officials who stepped down earlier this week.
"The situation is very serious," Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne told journalists on his way to the Cabinet meeting.
Prime minister acting like a 'defense lawyer'
Caruana Galizia exposed serious corruption in Malta and sparked protests before she was murdered in a 2017 car bomb attack.
"But what is incredible is that the prime minister is still using his position, and even giving speeches in parliament, behaving as though he is the defense lawyer of his chief of staff…," Matthew Caruana Galizia, the late journalist's son, told DW on Thursday.
He added that it was an unprecedented situation "anywhere else in the world."
EU leaders, he said, "made the mistake of embracing Muscat" because he "disguised himself as a liberal," but was actually "a populist, heavily authoritarian; his government is extremely corrupt."
"We all feel angry and frustrated. It’s not just me and my family, it’s the people of Malta," he added.
"If you look at the way people are protesting, we have never seen anything like this — there’s real anger," he said. "Our position, unequivocally is, he has to go."
Following the news of Schembri's release, Caruana Galizia tweeted that Fenech had "confessed to murder."
Earlier on Tuesday, the European Parliament announced it would send a delegation to Valletta to look into the case.
"The Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament has just agreed to send an urgent mission to look at the rule of law in Malta," German Green politician Sven Giegold said.
ed,ng/sms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)