European Union calls on Malta PM to resign

Sunday's protestors filled the length of Republic Street in Valletta

On state TV, Muscat stated that "in the coming time we will launch a process to have a new prime minister".

Embattled Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has announced plans to resign in January after coming under vast pressure for his handling of the political and legal debacle stemming from the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

But some want Muscat to leave office now, and up to 4,000 demonstrators gathered near parliament's entrance Monday.

Malta's richest man, Yorgen Fenech, has been charged with complicity in the journalist's murder.

Despite the journalist's revelations of corruption in the Maltese government, Muscat's Labour Party won the June 2017 general elections by a landslide.

Reporting from the Maltese capital, Al Jazeera's Neave Barker said Muscat's pledge to resign in January had inflamed tensions further. "A very large crowd is surrounding the building. Why?"

Malta's prime minister since 2013, he has been criticised by opposition politicians for allowing Schembri and Mizzi to stay in their posts.

The prime minister has insisted he is acting with impartiality, and that it is under his watch that three men were arrested and charged with detonating the auto bomb that killed Ms Caruana Galizia.

"Now we know the truth, that the government itself was involved in my mother's assassination", he said.

But Sophie in't Veld, the Dutch MEP leading the two-day mission to Malta, said he had made "serious errors of judgement" that made his position no longer tenable. Outside the building, hundreds of protesters chanted "Mafia, mafia".

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Muscat said his reason for stepping down was that "this is what needs to be done", declining to make a direct link to his decision and the murder probe.

"The case showed that Malta's institutions work and everyone is equal before the law", he said.

Although Mizzi denied any connection with Fenech, 17 Black had been listed as a target client of Mizzi and Schembri's Panama companies.

The government has rejected his bid for a pardon.

Schembri, who last week resigned, was arrested in the probe, but later released.

Many were calling for the immediate resignation of Malta's premier, who announced in a speech to the nation Sunday night that he would resign in January.

Caruana Galizia was killed by a vehicle bomb in October 2017, eight months after she blogged about the Panama Papers leak, alleging Dubai-based 17 Black Ltd. was linked to some top Maltese politicians.

The mother of three, described as a "one-woman WikiLeaks", was killed in a vehicle bombing near her home in October 2017.

Last week, the former chief aide to Muscat was questioned by police investigating Galizia's killing.

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