CASE DISMISSEDGreek Judge Dismisses Charges Against Nine Egyptians in Deadly Shipwreck Case

KALAMATA, Greece – A Greek judge has dismissed the charges against nine Egyptian men accused of causing a catastrophic shipwreck last year that claimed the lives of hundreds of migrants. This decision follows the prosecutor’s argument that Greece lacked jurisdiction over the incident.

The trial, held in the southern Greek city of Kalamata, began with public prosecutor Ekaterini Tsironi recommending the dismissal of the charges. Tsironi stated that Greek jurisdiction could not be established as the overcrowded trawler sank outside Greek territorial waters.

The fishing trawler, carrying over 500 migrants primarily from Syria, Pakistan, and Egypt, was en route from Libya to Italy when it sank on June 14. Despite rescue efforts, only 104 people were saved, and 82 bodies were recovered. The incident has cast a spotlight on the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations, prompting international concern and criticism.

Defense lawyer Spyros Pantazis argued that the court should not have the authority to try the case, asserting that the sinking occurred outside Greek territorial waters. “The court should not be turned into an international punisher,” Pantazis told the panel of three judges. This argument was supported by Judge Eftichia Kontaratou, who noted the absence of Greek involvement and the location of the incident being 47 nautical miles from Greek shores.

Outside the courthouse, a small group of protesters clashed with riot police as the proceedings commenced. While there were no serious injuries reported, two individuals were detained. The commotion from the protest could be heard inside the packed courtroom as Kontaratou read out the names of the nine defendants. Special police forces were present to maintain order.

Protesters clashed with riot police outside the courthouse as the proceedings commenced. | Credit: AP

The defendants, mostly in their 20s, faced severe charges that could have resulted in life imprisonment if convicted. They were accused of causing the shipwreck of the Adriana fishing trawler, a charge carrying significant weight given the scale of the tragedy. During the court session, the accused maintained their innocence, stating that their intended destination was Italy, not Greece.

International human rights groups have voiced concerns over the fairness of the trial, arguing that the defendants’ right to a fair trial was compromised. They pointed out that the trial commenced before a thorough investigation into the Greek coast guard’s role in the rescue attempt could be concluded. There have been allegations that the Greek coast guard may have mishandled the rescue operation, further complicating the legal and moral dimensions of the case.

Kontaratou, addressing these complexities, acknowledged the limitations of Greek jurisdiction in this matter. “There were no Greeks on board, it was not under a Greek flag and all the documents refer to the (vessel being) 47 nautical miles away,” she stated. This recognition ultimately led to the dismissal of the case, a decision that will likely reverberate through ongoing discussions about migrant safety and international maritime law.

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