Malta magistrate recuses herself in slain journalist case

A Maltese magistrate has recused herself from hearing preliminary evidence in the killing of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, citing a conflict of interest.

In the first hearing Thursday, Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech declared that she had attended school with one of Caruana Galizia's three sisters and had recently exchanged condolences.

Lawyers for the three men accused in the Oct. 16 car bomb slaying argued that the magistrate's link is "uncomfortable" and that the suspects "should have peace of mind that nothing will impinge on the court's decision."

Frendo Dimech said the defense had "an objective reason to call impartiality into question" and asked that the case be reassigned.

Compilation of evidence hearings are the first part of Malta's legal process to determine if the case should go to trial.