Greek Court Dismiss Charges Against Nine Egyptians Over Migrant Shipwreck Case

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Nine Egyptian men accused of causing a deadly shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants last year were acquitted by a Greek Court on Tuesday.

The decision, made by Presiding Judge Eftichia Kontaratou in the southern Greek city of Kalamata, has been hailed by human rights activists who had long argued that the trial was compromised.

The case centred on the tragic sinking of the Adriana fishing trawler, which was overloaded with migrants travelling from Libya to Italy.

On June 14 of last year, the vessel capsized and sank, resulting in the loss of more than 500 lives. Only 104 men, primarily from Syria, Pakistan, and Egypt, were rescued, and 82 bodies were recovered.

The accused, mostly in their 20s, had faced severe charges, including people smuggling and causing a deadly shipwreck, with potential life sentences if convicted.

Dimitris Choulis, a lawyer on the defence team, praised the court’s bravery in dismissing the case.

“The court today had to be very brave to issue this decision, and to say that these people are not the smugglers. So now the narrative of the bad smugglers is not existing anymore,” Choulis stated.

He emphasized the need to identify the real causes of the shipwreck, pointing to the actions of the Hellenic Coast Guard and European policies as contributing factors.

“We need to find who caused the shipwreck. The shipwreck was caused by actions of the Hellenic Coast Guard and by European policies. So this is what we need to do now, to see why this thing happened and make sure that nothing like that would happen again.”

The trial had faced significant criticism from international human rights groups, who argued that the defendant’s right to a fair trial was compromised. They contended that the trial proceeded despite an ongoing investigation into the Greek Coast Guard’s rescue attempt.

The public prosecutor, Ekaterini Tsironi, recommended the case be dismissed, noting that the trawler sank outside Greek territorial waters.

The judge’s ruling and the subsequent dismissal of the case were met with celebrations by human rights activists, who cheered and chanted slogans outside the courthouse.