Family of Malta journalist killed by bomb could be forced to pay in her libel suits

An anti-corruption reporter's family has appeared in a court in Malta for a libel case against her, a week after she was killed by a car bomb.

Hearing for 1 of dozens of libel cases Daphne Caruana Galizia was embroiled in began Monday

Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, seen in a 2011 photo, was killed a week ago by a car bomb. (Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters)

An investigative reporter's family appeared in a Malta court on Monday for a libel case against her, a week after she was killed by a car bomb.

The husband and the three sons of Daphne Caruana Galizia attended the hearing in a case brought by Malta's economy minister after she alleged that he had been to a brothel in Germany while on government business this year. Minister Chris Cardona, who wasn't in court, has denied the allegation.

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 ($16,300 Cdn) if the ruling goes against the journalist.

A woman holds a T-shirt with the last published words of Galizia, during a protest outside the Malta police headquarters in Floriana on Sunday. (Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters)

Elsewhere on the island, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna celebrated Mass in Caruana Galizia's memory on Monday in a small chapel a few hundred metres 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.

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 she lived. Her family didn't attend.

Funeral yet to be announced

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 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.