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Malta journalist murder trial leans on phone data

December 21, 2017

Police said two of the accused watched from nearby as Caruana Galizia set out in her car before telling George Degiorgio to detonate the device via SMS. Degiorgio sent the text from a boat outside Valletta harbour.

Malta: Daphne Caruana Galizia
Image: Getty Images/AFP/M. Mirabelli

Three men accused of killing anti-corruption blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia are to go to trial, after a magistrate on Thursday ruled there was enough evidence to support murder charges.

Brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio and Vincent Muscat were arrested early December on the strength of mobile data. Alfred Degiorgio's DNA was also found on a cigarette butt close to the crime scene, police said.

Read more: Malta's Deputy PM: 'Freedom of expression is threatened'

The three are accused of having killed 53-year-old Caruana Galizia in a carbomb as she drove out of her home on 16 October. 

In the Maltese judicial system, police have to present initial evidence to a magistrate, who decides whether there are sufficient grounds to press charges. On the third day of the preliminary hearing, Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit ruled that the three should be sent to trial.

Police told the court that George Degiorgio was sitting on a boat outside Valletta harbour when he sent an SMS to trigger the deadly bomb, which had been planted overnight in Caruana Galizia's hire car.

Read more: Daphne Caruana Galizia: Malta buries journalist as EU demands justice

Mobile phone data showed that Alfred Degiorgio and Muscat had repeatedly visited Caruana Galizia's home village Bidnija in the days before the blast.

Police believe they watched from a nearby vantage point as Caruana Galizia set out in her car and told George Degiorgio via telephone to detonate the device.

Read more: EU delegation to probe Malta corruption after murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

Caruana Galizia had written a popular investigative blog that accused some of Malta's most prominent figures – right up to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, not a relative of the accused Vincent Muscat's – of graft.

The three men remain in custody. No trial date has been set.

law/ (AP, Reuters)

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