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MaltaToday 17 May 2023 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 17 MAY 2023 2 MATTHEW AGIUS THE Criminal Court has overturned the acquittal of three men charged with holding a group of journalists against their will after a tense late-night Castille press conference in November 2019. Jody Pisani, Mark Gauci and Emanuel McKay had been cleared of holding Monique Agius, Miguela Xuereb, Ju- lian Bonnici and Paul Caruana Galizia against their will inside the Auberge de Castille on 29 November at around 3am. But this morning, Judge Aaron Bugeja upheld the AG's appeal and overturned the acquittal, finding the three men guilty. Reading out the final part of the judge- ment in court, the judge said that in the particular context of this case, the men were being conditionally discharged for six months. The judge warned them that commit- ting another offence in that period will result in them also being punished for this offence. Journalists Monique Agius, Miguela Xuereb, Julian Bonnici and Paul Caru- ana Galizia had been covering an im- promptu press conference at Castille on 29 November 2019, during the extraor- dinary and turbulent events at the tail end of disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's tenure. That night the cabinet had discussed and ultimately rejected a request for a presidential pardon made by Yorgen Fenech, the businessman indicted with complicity in the assassination of Daph- ne Caruana Galizia. After the tense press conference was over, the journalists had been prevented from leaving Castille, by what appeared to be a group of plainclothes security guards. The incident was captured on mobile phone footage. A police report was subsequently filed and the men were charged with detain- ing the journalists against their will in- side the Auberge de Castille during the incident. In 2020 Magistrate Joe Mifsud had ac- quitted the men, criticising the police investigation for not establishing the identity of the person who had ordered the door to be closed and observing that no physical force had been used against the reporters. The magistrate had shifted the blame on the journalists, saying that they had expected to take over the building and had been part of a "free for all" which was not acceptable in any building, be it governmental or private. The Attorney General had subse- quently filed an appeal against the judgement, which was decided today. The decision, which is yet to be pub- lished in full, overturned the acquittal and found the men guilty of the charges. Lawyer Etienne Savone represent- ed the Office of the Attorney General in this case. Lawyers Ramona Attard, Charlon Gouder and Matthew Xuer- eb were defence counsel. Lawyer Peter Caruana Galizia appeared as parte civ- ile. Court overturns acquittal, finds three men guilty of holding journalists against their will at Castille The best message one can send is that we are offering the solution - Attard CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 The report covers the transfer of the hospitals concession to Steward Health- care in 2018 and the American company's subsequent management of the contract. The first report was published in July 2020 and the second in December 2021. The report among other findings blames former minister Konrad Mizzi for mis- leading cabinet over a €100 million side agreement. Questioned on whether the Labour Par- ty was prepared to condemn Konrad Miz- zi, Keith Schembri and Joseph Muscat over their involvement, Attard chose to skirt around questioning, insisting peo- ple should recognise efforts made by the Robert Abela administrations in amend- ing the situation. "One has to reflect on the change carried out in the Labour Party and government," Attard said. "The best message one can send is that we are offering the solution." Addressing parliament on Monday evening, the Prime Minister insisted the report absolves him, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana and Health Minister Chris Fearne from any wrongdoing related to the deal. "The report makes a clear distinction between me, Chris Fearne and Clyde Caruana, and others involved in the deal," Abela said. Parliamentary debate In an unorthodox twist during Mon- day's parliamentary session, Andy Ellul requested that parliament suspend its agenda and hold an urgent debate on the report. The Opposition disagreed, suggesting instead holding the debate over two spe- cial sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday. Asked about this unreasonable request to debate a 400-page report that had just been tabled, Ellul said the facts were al- ready established, and the report revealed nothing that was relatively new. "The facts are the facts, the report does not change that," he said. "After all, the Opposition was in the same situation as us." He did not rule out a parliamentary de- bate on the report in the future. Government Whip Andy Ellul A photo of the incident in November 2019, when three Labour Party functionals prevented journalists from exiting the boardroom at Catille where the prime minister had just given a press conference

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