VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — Hundreds of people attended a Mass in Malta to celebrate an investigative journalist who was killed by a car bomb, and the archbishop prayed Monday that the nation would seek to promote a culture of “integrity and honesty.”
Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna celebrated Mass in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s memory in a small chapel a few hundred meters (yards) from where her rental car was blown up as she drove near her home. It began the same hour that she died on Oct. 16.
Many at the Mass had to remain outdoors because there was no more room inside the church in Bidnija, a rural area of olive groves and farms where she lived.
Her husband and three sons, meanwhile, appeared instead at a court hearing Monday in a libel case brought by Malta’s economy minister after she alleged that he had been to a brothel in Germany while on government business.
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Minister Chris Cardona, who wasn’t in court, has denied the allegation and the case was postponed.
Since libel cases in Malta don’t end after a person’s death but are passed on to heirs, her family risks a fine as high as 11,000 euros ($13,000) if the ruling goes against the journalist.
Although an autopsy 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, Caruana Galizia included in her targets local criminal organizations, 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. 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 president 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.
The anti-Mafia lawmaker, Rosy Bindi, told reporters that Malta has been of interest to the commission “for some time” because of drug trafficking, gambling and migrant trafficking.
“Many top Italian Mafia figures do business on this island,” Bindi said, without venturing on opinion about who might be behind the journalist’s killing.
Frances D’Emilio contributed from Rome.
Frances D’Emilio is on twitter at www.twitter.com