George Degiorgio has been awarded €10,000 in damages after a court found that his right to privacy and family life were breached by an unauthorised phone tap.
Degiorgio, who will face trial for the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, was challenging the validity of phone tapping laws, which authorities used to keep tabs on him.
A court on Tuesday ruled that the Malta Security Services had breached Degiorgio’s right to privacy, though it also dismissed his claim that his right to a fair hearing had been breached.
Judge Toni Abela ordered the state advocate and head of the MSS to pay Degiorgio €10,000 in damages. Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà, who was also targeted by the suit, was cleared as he was deemed by the court to not have a case to answer to.
According to Maltese law, the Malta Security Services is responsible for tapping phones and it can only do so after obtaining a warrant signed by the Prime Minister or Home Affairs Minister.
Investigators were listening in on Degiorgio’s phone eight months before Caruana Galizia was assassinated, as they suspected him of being involved in other crimes.
The court heard how the police commissioner at the time, Lawrence Cutajar, had passed on the tapping request on February 20, 2017. Caruana Galizia was killed in October of that year.
A warrant authorising the wiretap was issued two days later. It later expired.
Inspector Keith Arnaud told a court that he had not seen the warrant authorising that initial phone tap and that it was not his job to do so.
Further testimony by key figures, including MSS chief Joseph Bugeja, was heard behind closed doors.
The court found that the timing of the initial wiretap meant it was clearly not related to the eventual murder of Caruana Galizia, and expressed consternation at the fact that Degiorgio was being spied on even after it expired.
“The court cannot understand how that could be done without a warrant as requested by law,” it said as it ordered compensation to be paid to Degiorgio.
Degiorgio was represented by lawyer William Cuschieri.
More to follow
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