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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Greek court to hear case against nine Egyptians over deadly shipwreck

9 Egyptian men are set to stand trial in southern Greece, accused of causing a devastating shipwreck that killed over 500 migrants.

In a case that has garnered international attention, nine Egyptian men are set to stand trial in southern Greece, accused of causing a devastating shipwreck that resulted in the deaths of over 500 migrants. The defendants, most of whom are in their 20s, face multiple criminal charges and could be sentenced to life imprisonment if convicted. The shipwreck of the “Adriana” fishing trawler on June 14, 2023, sent shockwaves throughout Europe, raising serious questions about the European Union’s border protection and asylum policies.

The Shipwreck

The Adriana, carrying around 750 people primarily from Egypt, Pakistan, Syria, and Palestine, embarked on its ill-fated journey from Libya on June 9, 2023, aiming for Italy. Distress calls were sent out four days later when the trawler stopped moving. Despite being alerted by NGOs, the Italian coastguard, and Frontex, the Greek coastguard reached the vessel late on June 14. In the early hours of June 15, the Adriana capsized, resulting in the death of over 500 passengers. A total of 104 people were rescued, and 82 bodies were recovered.

Read More: New revelations contradict Greece’s claims on migrant shipwreck

Contentious Charges and Allegations

The nine defendants are accused of being members of a criminal organization, facilitating illegal entry into Greece, and intentionally causing the shipwreck. However, they vehemently deny these charges, claiming they were merely attempting to reach Europe like the other passengers. Lawyers from Greek human rights groups argue that the trial is unfair, noting that the investigation into the Greek coastguard’s possible mishandling of the rescue operation is still incomplete.

Human Rights Concerns

International human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have criticized the trial proceedings as rushed and improper. Judith Sunderland, an associate director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch, expressed concerns about the incomplete and questionable evidence against the defendants. Similarly, Marion Bouchetel from the Legal Centre Lesvos highlighted that the testimonies used to indict the men were taken under dubious circumstances and appear to be largely copied from one another.

Role of the Greek Coastguard

A significant point of contention in this case is the role of the Greek coastguard during the rescue operation. Survivor testimonies allege that the coastguard’s attempt to tow the Adriana caused it to flip over and that they did not adequately act to save those thrown into the water. These allegations have been consistently denied by the Greek coastguard, which maintains that those on board refused assistance. An investigation into the coastguard’s actions has yet to be concluded, adding to the complexity and controversy surrounding the trial.

Evidence and Accountability

Critics argue that the investigation into the shipwreck has been insufficient and biased. There are claims that crucial evidence, including communications from the coastguard and data from nearby planes, was not included in the case file. The defense’s request for this evidence was denied, raising questions about the thoroughness and fairness of the investigation. Additionally, inconsistencies in the coastguard’s logs and testimonies, along with the questionable handling of survivors’ confiscated phones, further undermine confidence in the official narrative.

Read More: Pakistan observes day of mourning for citizens who died in Greece shipwreck

This trial has far-reaching implications, not only for the nine defendants but also for the broader issue of migrant treatment and border protection in Europe. The shipwreck has intensified scrutiny on how European countries manage and protect the lives of migrants and asylum seekers. With illegal border crossings on the rise, the European Union faces mounting pressure to address these humanitarian crises more effectively and humanely.