Police in Malta have arrested a suspected middleman in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has indicated the suspect could be granted a presidential pardon if he names the mastermind behind the plot.
Caruana Galizia was killed aged 53 by a car bomb while driving near her home in Mosta on 16 October 2017.
She had been investigating money laundering and corruption in Malta for her blog Running Commentary, and faced more than 40 civil and criminal defamation suits against her reporting, some of which are still ongoing.
Three men have been charged with triggering the car bomb but have yet to be put on trial, while the authorities have so far failed to identity the person suspected of ordering the killing.
It was reported that he was arrested on Thursday during a raid targeting an alleged money laundering ring and that he wants a blanket pardon covering his part in the murder plot and all his past crimes before he cooperates with the authorities.
Speaking to journalists this morning, Muscat said he had discussed the case with Malta’s attorney general and agreed there should not be a blanket pardon until the extent of the suspect’s potential evidence is known.
He added that he had signed a letter saying that if the suspected middleman gives evidence in court and guarantees full cooperation with the authorities, he would recommend a presidential pardon.
“If the person collaborates and the information provided is sufficient to prosecute the mastermind of this crime, they will receive a presidential pardon,” Muscat said.
The suspect is currently under “strict protection” and the police have a number of days left to question him.
But the PM suggested the investigation could be coming to an end.
He said: “If you were to ask me: ‘How long do we have left to wait?’ I don’t think it’s a matter of months, but I don’t think its just a matter of a couple of days. It could be somewhere inbetween.”
Last week nine international organisations said they “cautiously welcome” updated terms of a public inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s killing, including changes to the composition of its panel of investigators.
The journalist’s family had raised concerns over members of the inquiry board’s proximity to government and previous investigations into her death.
The groups, including Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, International Press Institute, and European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, said the inquiry must now “proceed without further delay and with full resources to ensure that the whole truth emerges concerning the circumstances of the assassination of Malta’s foremost journalist”.
Caruana Galizia’s family said in a statement: “Civil society, the Council of Europe, and our family’s calls for an independent and impartial public inquiry have finally been heard.
“The Maltese Government must now give the board of inquiry its full support and co-operation so that the wider circumstances surrounding our wife and mother’s assassination are investigated without further delay, lessons can be learned and restorative justice for the country can follow.
“We hope that the evidence gathered by the inquiry will prevent other journalists losing their lives in Malta and beyond. We expect that the inquiry will have sufficient resources to complete its work in good time and that the government will promptly implement any recommendations.”
Picture: AP Photo/Jon Borg/File