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Maltese PM announces resignation amid unrest

Maltese PM announces resignation amid unrest

Valletta, Dec 2: Joseph Muscat has announced he plans to step down as Malta's prime minister, saying on state TV he would ask his ruling Labour party to start a process to choose a new leader on 12 January next year, according to The Guardian. He made the announcement on Sunday night after calls for his resignation had grown over the 2017 car bomb killing of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. On Saturday, a prominent businessman with alleged ties to government ministers and senior officials was charged over the case. "I will write to the president of the Labour party so that the process for a new leader is set for 12 January 2020. On that day I will resign as leader of the Labour party. In the days after I will resign as prime minister," Muscat said. "Our country thus will start a short process of approximately a month for the Labour party to choose a new leader and a new prime minister." Thousands of people took part in an anti-government march earlier on Sunday in Valetta, the capital of the tiny Mediterranean archipelago nation, marching from parliament to the central court house in an event organised by the activist group Repubblika, among others, and led by members of the Caruana Galizia family. Earlier, lawmakers from Labour had insisted they would stand by Muscat. Yorgen Fenech, 38, was taken to a Valletta court late on Saturday and charged with complicity in the murder. He pleaded not guilty to that and other charges. The government had earlier turned down Fenech's request for immunity from prosecution in return for revealing information about the murder plot and about alleged corruption involving Muscat's former chief of staff Keith Schembri and the former tourism minister Konrad Mizzi, among others, court filings showed. Schembri and Mizzi resigned on Tuesday. Schembri was interrogated for two days by police before being released without charge. He has denied any wrongdoing. Mizzi denied any business links with Fenech and any wrongdoing. Before Muscat's announcement, the Labour party's parliamentary group met for four hours on Sunday at Girgenti Palace, the prime minister's official countryside residence, saying afterward that lawmakers gave "unanimous support to all decisions which the prime minister will be taking". The Guardian view on the Daphne Caruana Galizia investigation: the ministerial connection On Saturday, Caruana Galizia's family called for Muscat, 45, to quit. The journalist had reported that Schembri and Mizzi set up secret companies in Panama. She also reported how another company, 17 Black, was meant to be a vehicle to deposit funds into those companies. An investigation by Reuters and the Times of Malta showed Fenech as having been the owner of 17 Black. Mizzi denied any business ties to Fenech or knowledge of 17 Black or any criminal activity. Schembri has always denied any wrongdoing. Speaking on Saturday for the first time since his arrest, he denied being the author of a typewritten letter that Fenech told police he received anonymously after his arrest. Fenech said the letter told him to pin the blame for the murder on another government minister. "I immediately denied that the letter came from me when the police were interrogating me and I stand by that completely," he told the Times of Malta. Malta's prime minister to resign amid investigation of a journalist's killing Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will step down in mid-January. (CNN)Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will resign in mid-January, he said in a statement Sunday. Muscat's resignation comes amid the investigation into the death of prominent Investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a car bomb in October 2017, Muscat had informed associates of his plan to resign imminently, the Times of Malta reported Friday. The decision caused by the political and legal maelstrom into the investigation, according to the paper. Caruana Galizia had been investigating alleged corruption within the government. Her family and protesters have accused Muscat of trying to shield members of his inner circle from the ongoing investigation into her death. "Every single day of these past two years I have shouldered responsibilities and taken decisions. I made decisions in the best interest for the conclusion of the case and I am convinced that some decisions were good while others could have been better," Muscat said in his statement. "The sensations of genuine sadness and anger for this murder are justified," he said. "In the same manner, violence, and disorder, within the pretext of a protest, are not justified in a democracy." Investigation unfolds Caruana Galizia was killed in the car bomb just down the road from her home as she drove to the bank. Her family says she was "assassinated" because of her work uncovering alleged corruption in the Maltese government. Her journalism-- including her research into Maltese citizens implicated in the Panama Papers -- had made her some very powerful enemies. The Panama Papers are the name for the leak of millions of files from the database of a Panama law firm called Mossack Fonseca in 2016. The journalist had suffered intimidation over the years -- her dog's throat was cut, and in 2006 her house was set on fire as the family slept, tires piled against the back door to prevent them escaping. Shortly before her death, in what was to be the final entry on her blog Running Commentary, she wrote: "There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate." Three men were formally charged in July with murder in connection with the incident. All three suspects pleaded not guilty during pre-trial proceedings. CNN's Susanna Capelouto reported Atlanta and Simon Cullen reported from London. Tara John contributed to this report.

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