VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — A judge in Malta sentenced two brothers to 40 years in prison each after they abruptly reversed course and pleaded guilty Friday to the car-bomb murder of an anti-corruption journalist, which had shocked Europe and triggered angry protests in Malta.
Hours earlier, at the start of the trial in a Valletta courthouse, George Degiorgio, 59, and Alfred Degiorgio, 57, had entered not-guilty pleas over the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia in the blast as she drove near her home on Oct. 16, 2017.
“This is an important step forward, to deliver justice in a case that represents a dark chapter in Malta’s history,” a statement from the office of Prime Minister Robert Abela’s government said shortly after the sentencing.
The trial judge, Edwina Grima, retired to chambers after the change of plea before announcing the sentences an hour later.
The two defendants were also ordered to pay 50,000 euros apiece from the money they received as a result of the crime as well as court costs.
They could have faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Prosecutors alleged that the brothers were hired by a top Maltese businessman with government ties. That businessman has been charged and will be tried separately.
Bringing the trial to an abrupt close, the Degiorgio brothers entered guilty pleas to all of the following charges: willful homicide; causing an explosion which resulted in the death of a person; illicit possession of explosives; criminal conspiracy; promoting, constituting, organizing or financing an organization with a view to commit criminal offenses, and active participation in a conspiracy.
In the run-up to the trial, the Degiorgio brothers had denied the charges. A third suspect, Vincent Muscat, avoided a trial after earlier changing his plea to guilty. Muscat is serving a 15-year sentence.