Home News Court drops charges in deadly Mediterranean shipwreck

Court drops charges in deadly Mediterranean shipwreck

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Nearly a year after the Mediterranean’s deadliest shipwreck occurred in waters south of Greece, a Kalamata court on Tuesday dropped criminal charges against nine Egyptians accused in connection with the tragedy. Because the trawler sank on the high seas, the court held that Greece had no jurisdiction to hear the case.

Lawyers for the defendants hailed the verdict as long-overdue justice. The defendant was on board the trawler when it sank but was charged with smuggling and other offences. But the court did not rule on whether the Egyptian man was guilty or not, saying only that the case was not for Greece to decide.

The future of the case is unclear, including the possibility of it being heard elsewhere. A naval court is continuing a separate investigation into the sinking and the actions of the Greek coast guard; the impact of Tuesday’s ruling on that investigation has also yet to be determined.

More than 700 people are believed to be on board the rusting trawler Adriana. Sunk on June 14 off the southern coast of Greece, en route from Libya to Italy. Only 104 people survived – all men and boys, most of them from Syria, Egypt and Pakistan. Survivor testimony said women and children were also on board, but on the lower decks and unable to escape.

Eighty-two bodies were recovered; the remaining passengers have yet to be found, as the ship sank in one of the deepest parts of the Mediterranean, making salvage efforts nearly impossible.

Among the survivors, In June, nine Egyptian men were detained Accused of smuggling immigrants, joining a criminal organization and causing a fatal shipwreck. If convicted, they face multiple life sentences.

Lawyers for the men argued they were merely passengers on the Adriana and were being unfairly prosecuted to punish asylum seekers for engaging in smuggling. They also claimed Greece had no jurisdiction over the case because the sinking occurred in international waters, an objection the court upheld on Tuesday.

One of the defense lawyers, Alexandros Georgoulis, said the decision set a “strong legal precedent” for Greece’s role, or lack thereof, in cases involving the sinking of migrants. “The court recognizes that Greece cannot continue to play the role of international policeman,” he said.

Although the court did not rule on the men’s role in the sinking, Mr. George Gulis called the ruling vindication. “It is belated justice for them, who in the space of a day went from being victims of a sinking to being accused of serious criminal charges that carry multiple life sentences,” he said.

But prosecutors argued from the outset that the nine defendants were crew members responsible for the ship’s severe overcrowding and mistreatment of passengers.

Although the Adriana sank in international waters 47 nautical miles off the coast of Greece, the location Greek Area of ​​Responsibility Used for search and rescue. But the Greek coast guard monitored the ship for hours but did not intervene. Authorities said this was because the ship’s crew continued to refuse help, insisting the ship wanted to continue to Italy.

Some maritime law experts said The Greek Coast Guard should have intervened anyway. “International law of the sea is clear that when life at sea is in danger, assistance should be provided regardless of whether it is denied,” said Aphrodite Papachristodou, visiting fellow at Harvard Law School and postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Law School Aphrodite Papachristodoulou said. the Irish Center for Human Rights said in an email on Tuesday. “Coastal states have authority over their search and rescue zones (covering territorial waters and international waters) and have obligations exercise due diligence to provide adequate and effective search and rescue services in their search and rescue areas,” she added.

Some survivors said in initial testimonies that the Greek coast guard caused the Adriana to capsize after trying to tow it away, an allegation that Greece has denied.

Human rights groups have raised concerns about the independence of Greek authorities investigating the sinking, with Tuesday’s ruling on jurisdiction raising concerns about the possible outcome of a naval court inquiry. Judith Sunderland, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch, say on social media“The Naval Court has jurisdiction over the Hellenic Coast Guard wherever it operates.”

Earlier on Tuesday, a small group of protesters critical of European immigration policies and what they called a “state cover-up” clashed with riot police outside the Kalamata courthouse, leaving two protesters injured.

It’s unclear when or where a new trial will take place. A prosecutor told a court on Tuesday that when a ship sails on the high seas, the only government that has jurisdiction over any crime is those related to the ship’s flag (with some exceptions, such as piracy). The Adriana had no flag.

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