Greek judge dismisses case against 9 Egyptians accused of causing shipwreck

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Four of nine Egyptians, who were on trial for migrant smuggling, react as they leave from the court in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, on May 21. (AP)

KALAMATA, Greece, May 21, (AP): A Greek judge dismissed charges against nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants last year and sent shockwaves through the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations, after a prosecutor told the court Greece lacked jurisdiction.
Shortly after the trial opened in the southern Greek city of Kalamata, public prosecutor Ekaterini Tsironi recommended that the charges be dismissed, saying that Greek jurisdiction could not be established because the overcrowded trawler sank outside Greek territorial waters.
More than 500 people are believed to have gone down with the fishing trawler, which had been traveling from Libya to Italy. Following the sinking, 104 people were rescued – mostly migrants from Syria, Pakistan and Egypt – and 82 bodies were recovered.
Supporters clapped and cheered as the judge announced the dismissal of a case that had faced criticism from international human rights groups, who argued that the accuseds’ right to a fair trial was compromised because they faced judgment while an investigation into the Greek coast guard’s rescue attempt is still under way.
Earlier, a small group of protesters clashed with riot police outside the courthouse. There were no reports of serious injuries but two people were detained. Officers from the special police forces maintained order in the courtroom.
The defendants, most in their 20s, faced up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges over the sinking of the “Adriana” fishing trawler on June 14 last year off the southern coast of Greece.
Defense lawyer Spyros Pantazis had earlier asked the court to declare itself incompetent to try the case, arguing that the sinking occurred outside Greek territorial waters.

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