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Blogger to file breach of rights case over memorial

The government tried to remove the protest it was so offended by for 17 times

Activist and blogger Manuel Delia will this week file a constitutional case against the government over what he says is a breach of his fundamental right to free ex­pression, after the memorial to Daphne Caruana Galizia at the Great Siege monument in Valletta was dismantled 17 times.

“Activists like me did not start the memorial,” Mr Delia told The Sunday Times of Malta. “Nor did we guard it or make it our own.”

The exception was last week when activists had con­firmation that the people removing the protest site were government employees acting on instructions from their political masters, he said. “We wanted to make sure it stayed in place for our vigil last Sunday.”

Mr Delia said the government tried, for 17 times, to get away with removing the protest it was so offended by, without admitting it was doing so itself.

“They hid their actions by acting in the dead of night. Last week, out of hubris, they made the mistake of having the protest wiped out in broad daylight. A journalist happened to be passing by and when he challenged the workers there, they told him they were acting on the Justice Ministry’s instruction. That’s after one of them assaulted him,” he said.

Read: Caruana Galizia activists incensed as Great Siege monument is blocked for 'restoration'

Mr Delia said this was confirmed to him and to the police by the director of Public Cleansing whom he is suing this week, along with Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, blamed by the director for giving the order to wipe out the protest.

Two weeks ago, scaffolding and hoarding were erected around the Great Siege monument. Dr Bonnici said in a Facebook post that the lower part of the historic monument would be undergoing restoration.

“Last week I filed a request to the court for an injunction to stop the government from crushing our protest before my claim that our Constitution protects our right to protest is properly heard,” Mr Delia said.

Another fundamental right the government has dispensed with: the right to a fair hearing

“The court ordered the government to reply, but instead of replying the government ignored the court, ignored us and went ahead and crushed the protest again.

“That’s another fundamental right the government has dispensed with: the simple right to a fair hearing, allowing me to make a case against it in open court. Instead they acted to make the court completely irrelevant.”

As the court cannot stop the government from doing something it has already done, Mr Delia said, he will be replacing his injunction request with a constitutional claim of breach of human rights.

“Frankly it does not matter if you agree with our protest or not. One day you may have something to protest about: something concerning your property or your job or your business. And I mention those because some people think activism is done by other people who do not have jobs or businesses or property to worry about.

“If today we allow the government to use pretexts such as ‘protection of a memorial from appropriation’, ‘health and safety’, ‘hygiene’ and all the other rubbish Owen Bonnici came up with to camouflage pure and unbridled suppression of protest, it will happen to you next,” he said.

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Karol Aquilina, Eve Borg Costanzi, Paul Borg Olivier and Therese Comodini Cachia are representing Mr Delia in this case.

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