The sister of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was involved in a tense stand-off with Maltese police on Tuesday after a group of protesters stormed into the prime minister’s office in Valletta, the capital, to demand his immediate resignation.
The 30 protesters were trapped inside the prime minister’s office, an imposing stone palace built by the Knights of Malta 500 years ago, after police and soldiers locked the doors.
Corinne Vella, Mrs Caruana Galizia’s sister and an outspoken critic of the government, banged on the green wooden doors, demanding that journalists be allowed to see the protest inside. The protesters could be heard blowing whistles and banging drums.
“You should not be blocking access to a public property where protesters are demanding justice for a murdered journalist,” Ms Vella told the police officer in charge of the operation.
The police superintendent, who refused to give his name, said the protesters had breached “security measures”.
After a stand-off lasting five hours, the protesters, from a Left-wing activist movement called Graffitti, were escorted out of the building.
The sit-in was the latest attempt to put pressure on Joseph Muscat, the prime minister, to resign over allegations of a cover-up of the car bombing murder of Mrs Caruana Galizia in October 2017.
Campaigners claim the murder plot reaches to the heart of the prime minister’s inner circle.
Yorgen Fenech, a multi-millionaire businessman who has been charged with being the mastermind behind the murder plot, has claimed in court that he was kept abreast of the investigation by Keith Schembri, who was for years the prime minister’s chief of staff until he resigned last month.
The alleged middleman in the plot, Melvin Theuma, has also implicated Mr Schembri in the assassination.
Mr Schembri, who has been arrested and questioned about the plot three times, has denied any involvement. He was released without charge each time.
“Muscat’s position is untenable,” Ms Vella told The Telegraph. “We have a situation where the prime minister is in charge of the investigation, through the powers he has relating to national security, and yet his office has been directly implicated. It’s obscene.”
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Responding to a wave of marches and protests, Mr Muscat says he will resign but not until next month, after his successor as head of the governing Labour Party has been chosen.
He has repeatedly denied any involvement in the journalist’s murder and said he will leave “no stone unturned” in the bid to find out who organised and carried out the murder.
But campaigners and opposition MPs accuse Malta’s police and judiciary of being so politically influenced that they are incapable of carrying out a proper investigation.
“People are seeking truth and justice from a prime minister who has protected his corrupt aides and has done nothing to uncover corruption,” said Paul Borg Olivier, a former secretary-general of the opposition Nationalist Party and the nephew of a former prime minister.
“We may be the smallest country in the EU, but this is a wake-up call for the whole continent. We’re seeing this kind of infringement of the rule of law in other countries like Poland and Hungary. The EU needs to turn words into action and force the prime minister to go,” said Mr Borg Olivier, who was mayor of Valletta for 10 years.