Friends mourn slain Malta journalist as PM vows justice

A candlelight vigil on October 16 was held in tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia

Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat described murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on Wednesday as "his biggest adversary" but vowed to bring her killers to justice as emotional commemorations for the slain mother continued into a third day.

Friends of Caruana Galizia's three sons left flowers and staged a vigil at the Valletta monument to the Great Siege of 1565, opposite the Courts of Justice, a venue the journalist knew well owing to a blog whose hard-hitting content led to several legal tussles.

Some friends reiterated her eldest son Matthew's charge that Malta's centre-left government was complicit in the death of the widely-read blogger whose reports of high-level corruption prompted Muscat into an early general election in June, which he won.

"Everything is being swept under the carpet, issue after issue. It's reached this point where it's blatantly obvious," said one, Nigel Anastasi, 30, a graphic designer.

"She would release a story, everyone knows about it and nothing happens. It's so frustrating. The institutions are failing to take action."

Among the messages written on bouquets of flowers was one thanking the reporter for "speaking out on behalf of those who want to build a fairer world."

Another said: "Our lives end the day we become silent about things that matter. Your death will not be in vain."

- 'Died inside' -

One woman who came to lay flowers, Simone Vella Lenicker, 42, an architect, told AFP: "It has affected everyone. I feel like a piece of me died inside -- the urge to speak out, make my voice heard and comment on things that are happening.

"We are somehow feeling silenced. That is the biggest loss as a nation. Every one of us feels they have lost.

"It's now down to everyone of us who remained silent to come forward and make sure this did not happen in vain."

Muscat meanwhile attempted to shift the spotlight on himself onto the main opposition Nationalist Party, which had also been the focus of Caruana Galizia's investigations.

"It is unthinkable in a country like Malta to die for your job, in Caruana Galizia's case for what she wrote," Muscat said in several interviews published Wednesday.

"She was probably my biggest adversary, she attacked me from when I was leader of the opposition. But that was her job," he said, adding that he had called in "the FBI and other European security services" to find her killers.

Caruana Galizia, who had been called a "one-woman Wikileaks", was killed in a car bomb on Monday.

She had lately used her widely-read blog to make a series of detailed allegations of corruption in Muscat's inner circle, some based on the Panama Papers data leak.

Muscat refused to speculate on who might be behind her death, but said that "the easiest thing for me to do would be to point the finger against the opposition, the leader of which was the subject of Daphne's latest stories".

- 'Cowardly attack' -

He noted that the blogger had accused opposition leader Adrian Delia of "money laundering, prostitution and more".

Muscat also said she had written on her blog about receiving threats "from people in the opposition" over the last month, but that he could not verify the claim.

On Tuesday, Delia called on Muscat to step down, accusing him of personally failing to safeguard the blogger's life.

Muscat responded to that charge by saying he could not impose police protection on someone who did not want it.

Dutch forensic experts arrived on the island on Tuesday to aid the investigation.

Police sources said Semtex explosives were believed to have been used in the car bomb, a demolition compound known to be favoured by terrorists in large-scale attacks.

Caruana Galizia's killing has sent shock waves around the world with the United States the latest country to condemn it.

"It was a cowardly attack that took the life of a talented and brave reporter who dedicated her career to ... shining light on corruption," said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

"The Government of Malta and Malta police force have been in contact with the FBI about the investigation and the FBI is providing specific assistance."