Greece: Trial on Mediterranean migrant shipwreck dismissed

World Tuesday 21/May/2024 14:44 PM
By: DW
Greece: Trial on Mediterranean migrant shipwreck dismissed

Athens: The trial of nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean last year was dismissed on Tuesday in Greece.

On June 14 2023, the fishing trawler "Adriana" sank with an estimated 750 people on board. Some 104 survivors were rescued, mostly migrants from Pakistan, Syria and Egypt. A further 82 bodies were recovered.

The defendants, aged between 21 to 37 years old, were among the survivors and face multiple charges including negligent homicide, participation in a criminal organisation and facilitating illegal entry into the country.

A judge dropped the charges against the nine men, citing lack of jurisdiction.

Human rights groups question legality of trial
Lawyers from Greek human rights groups are representing the nine Egyptians, who deny the smuggling charges.

They argue that their clients were arrested just over 24 hours after surviving the sinking, and based on just nine testimonies, some of which were collected without adequate translation.

Defense lawyer Spyros Pantazis asked the court to declare itself incompetent to try the case. He argued that the sinking occurred outside Greek territorial waters.

Ahead of the trial, rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that a parallel investigation into the Greek authorities' actions is still at a preliminary stage. This means the court will have incomplete information when determining the defendants' culpability, it argued.

"There's a real risk that these nine survivors could be found 'guilty' on the basis of incomplete and questionable evidence," Judith Sunderland, an associate director for Europe and Central Asia at HRW, said.

Was the Greek coastguard to blame?
The sinking renewed pressure on European governments to protect the lives of migrants and asylum seekers trying to reach the continent.

Many migrant support groups and media outlets have said that the Greek coastguard was slow to intervene.

The coastguard had insisted that it communicated with persons on board who "refused any help."

"Credible and meaningful accountability for one of the worst shipwrecks in the Mediterranean needs to include a determination of any liabilities of Greek authorities," Sunderland added.

Migrants from Africa and Asia often take the Mediterranean route using inadequate and overcrowded boats to reach European shores. Human smugglers often transport the migrants for an exploitative fee, with no guarantee that they will survive the treacherous sea journey.