Two brothers were sentenced to 40 years each in prison on Friday for murdering anti-corruption Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Alfred and George Degiorgio were convicted of making, planting and detonating the car bomb that killed 53-year-old Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017.
The pair previously pleaded not guilty to the charges, but changed their pleas in a remarkable turnaround on the first day of their trial in Malta.
“Today’s judgment is another important step in bringing justice to the Caruana Galizia family,” Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela tweeted shortly after the judgement.
“Three people have now been convicted for this murder and three others are awaiting trial,” she added. “We remain committed to seeing justice done for the family and for Malta.”
The death of Galizia on 16 October 2017 and the ensuing case rocked the European Union’s smallest state and sparked an international wave of condemnation, leading to the resignation of Malta’s then-PM.
The trial of the two brothers opened in Valletta on Friday.
Both Alfred and George Degiorgio pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and criminal conspiracy. But as proceedings got underway, they changed their pleas to guilty in exchange for more lenient sentences.
Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed near her home after denouncing endemic corruption on the small Mediterranean archipelago, a former British colony that joined the EU in 2004.
One of her three sons Paul Caruana Galizia, himself a journalist, welcomed the defendant’s change of plea earlier on Friday, describing it in a Tweet as “a break in the clouds”.
In an interview with Reuters earlier this year, George Degiorgio confessed to the crime, calling it “business”.
A lawyer for the brothers said the two men were seeking a pardon in return for divulging “everything we know about other murders, bombs and crimes”.
Last year the pair said they were ready to implicate a former minister in exchange for clemency, which was eventually refused.
Just hours before her death in 2017 Galizia posted in her blog Running Commentary: “Corrupt people are everywhere. The situation is desperate.”
A third man implicated in the murder, Vincent Muscat, pleaded guilty last year. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and will testify at this trial, according to the deputy prosecutor.
Yorgen Fenech — a wealthy businessman suspected of ordering the murder — is yet to be tried. He denies any involvement.
Galizia’s death led to the resignation of then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in January 2020, who was accused of trying to protect his friends and political allies tainted by the murder.
A 2021 public inquiry into the incident found that the Maltese government bears part of the responsibility for creating a “climate of impunity” for those who wanted to silence the journalist.