Family of reporter killed in car bombing appears at libel trial

The family of an anti-corruption reporter who was killed in a car bombing a week ago have appeared in court in Malta for a libel case against her.

The husband and three sons of Daphne Caruana Galizia attended Monday's hearing in a libel case brought by Malta's economy minister after the reporter alleged he had been to a brothel in Germany while on government business earlier this year.

The minister, Chris Cardona, who was not in court, has denied the allegation and filed the libel suit.

The case was postponed.

Since libel cases in Malta do not end after a person's death but are passed on to heirs, her family risks a fine as high as €11,000 if the ruling goes against her.

Elsewhere on the island, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna celebrated Mass in Ms Caruana Galizia's memory in a small chapel a few hundred yards from where her rental car was blown up as she drove near her home.

It began the same hour that she died on October 16.

Hundreds of the people came to the Mass and many had to remain outdoors because there was no more room inside the church in Bidnija, a rural area of olive groves and other farms where the reporter lived. Her family did not attend.

Although a post-mortem examination was performed last week, the body of the 53-year-old journalist is still in the custody of authorities as part of the investigation into the car bombing. No funeral date has been announced.

In his homily, Scicluna said his "solemn appeal today is that we be not afraid".

"What happened last week was intended to make us fear an unknown force of evil," the archbishop said.

"We pray for Daphne and her family and for our island, that we may promote a culture of solidarity, integrity and honesty."

Writing for several publications in the tiny Mediterranean archipelago nation, as well as the author of a highly-followed blog, Ms Caruana Galizia included in her targets local criminal organisations, politicians, businessmen and other powerful figures.

Many sued, and dozens of lawsuits were pending when she was killed.

She exposed local links in the Panama Papers leak, especially offshore companies that she alleged were held by Maltese figures, including the wife of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

The Muscats denied they held an offshore account. Ms Caruana Galizia had alleged it was opened so top figures from Azerbaijan could move money through it.

One of her more recent probes involved the trafficking of contraband oil with the help of Libyan militias from a refinery in Libya.

Italian prosecutors in Sicily two days after her death announced they had broken up a trafficking scheme that sent black market fuel to Italy and other European countries with the help of Maltese suspects and boats positioned off Malta.

Among those at the church service was the head of the Italian Parliament's anti-Mafia commission.

Commission members on Monday began a two-day fact-finding visit to the island, a mission scheduled before the car bombing.


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