VALLETTA, Malta -- Several thousand Maltese citizens rallied Sunday to honor an investigative journalist killed by a car bomb, but the prime minister and opposition leader who were chief targets of Daphne Caruana Galizia's reporting stayed away from the gathering.
Participants at the rally in Malta's capital, Valletta, placed flowers at the foot of a memorial to the 53-year-old reporter that sprang up opposite the law court building after her slaying last Monday.
Some in the European Union nation of some 400,000 people wore T-shirts or carried placards emblazoned with words from Caruana Galizia's final blog post: "There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate."
Police removed a banner describing Malta as a "Mafia state."
The violent and malicious death of a journalist who devoted her professional career to exposing wrongdoing in Malta and who raised her three sons there united many of the nation's oft-squabbling politicians.
Malta's two dominant political forces, the ruling Labor and opposition Nationalist parties, participated in the rally, which was organized to press demands for justice in her slaying.
But Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told his Labor party's radio station a few hours before the event's start time that he wouldn't attend because he knew the anti-corruption reporter's family didn't want him to be there.
"I know where I should be and where I should not be. I am not a hypocrite, and I recognize the signs," Muscat said, adding that he supported the rally's goals of call for justice and national unity.
Nationalist leader Adrian Delia also skipped the rally, saying he didn't want to "stir controversy."
"Today is not about me, but about the rule of law and democracy," Delia told reporters.
Muscat and Delia, while fierce political rivals, have another thing in common: Both brought libel lawsuits against Caruana Galizia. Delia withdrew his pending libel cases last week after her killing.
Caruana Galizia's family has refused to endorse the government's offer of a reward worth $1.18 million and full protection to anyone with information that leads to the arrest and prosecution of her killer or killers.
Instead, the family, which includes a son who is an investigative journalist himself, has demanded that Muscat resign. In their quest for a serious and efficient investigation, Caruana Galizia's husband and children also want Malta's national police chief and attorney general replaced.
The journalist focused her reporting for years on investigating political corruption and scandals, and reported on Maltese mobsters and the island's drug trafficking. She also wrote about Maltese links to the so-called Panama Papers leaks about offshore financial havens.
On Sunday morning, all seven national newspapers had their front pages black in Caruana Galizia's memory. Printed in bold letters against the black backgrounds were the words: "The pen conquers fear."
Information for this article was contributed by Frances D'Emilio of The Associated Press.
A Section on 10/23/2017
Print Headline: Maltese politicians skip rally for slain journalist