Greek court will try nine Egyptians for Pylos shipwreck

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By Creative Media News

  • Nine Egyptians charged over June 2023 Pylos shipwreck
  • Defendants deny involvement; claim they were passengers
  • Human Rights Watch, Amnesty criticize trial’s legality

Greece will on Tuesday try nine Egyptian men who are charged with criminal culpability for the Pylos shipwreck, which resulted in the deaths of over 550 individuals on June 14, 2023.

It is alleged that the defendants were complicit in a criminal organization that enabled unauthorized entry into Greece and deliberately precipitated the catastrophe.

All of them, however, have denied being smugglers or being at fault for the shipwreck, claiming that they were merely attempting to reach Europe like the other passengers.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have deemed the trial proceedings to be hasty and unlawful.

According to Marion Bouchetel, a member of Legal Centre Lesvos, which is representing the accused, the Pylos 9 defendants were unlawfully detained and charged with smuggling offenses on the basis of scant and dubious evidence.

The accused has been labeled as an example of the “systematic criminalization of migrants in Greece” by the organization.

The nine men could face multiple life sentences if convicted.

The sinking vessel

On June 9, 2023, the Adriana fishing trawler departed Libya carrying up to 750 individuals, the majority of whom were Egyptian, Pakistani, Syrian, and Palestinian nationals.

Four days later, passengers began transmitting distress calls due to the vessel’s immobility. NGOs, the Italian coastguard, and Europe’s border agency Frontex informed the Greek coastguard of the ship’s whereabouts. By the late hours of June 14, the coastguard had arrived in Adriana.

Early on June 15, during the early hours, the Adriana capsized.

According to survivor accounts, the Hellenic coastguard attempted to tow the vessel, which resulted in its capsize, and failed to take adequate measures to rescue those in the water.

The coastguard of Greece has refuted both of these accusations.

The number of survivors amounted to 104.

“Based on the survivor testimonies, our position is that these nine individuals bear no responsibility, at the very least, for the sinking.” “The coastguard is responsible for the sinking,” stated Stefanos Levidis, an expert witness for the defense and one of the principal researchers investigating the shipwreck.

By cross-referencing the testimonies of 26 survivors with videos and photographs of the ship, vessel tracking and flight path data, satellite imagery, logs, and the captain of the coastguard vessel’s testimony, Levidis’s organization, Forensis, determined that the coastguard was culpable for the sinking because it failed to mobilize other nearby ships adequately, towed the Adriana, retreated, causing waves, and then abandoned those who had been thrown overboard as the boat continued.

Based on testimonies from representatives of the Hellenic Coastguard, the Greek police, and nongovernmental organizations, a joint report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reached the same conclusion: the coastguard failed to respond appropriately to distress calls, and allegations regarding its involvement in the sinking warranted a comprehensive investigation.

A naval court investigation into the involvement of the Hellenic coastguard in the catastrophe has yet to conclude in Greece. The compiled evidence has not been made available to the defense team.

The Hellenic Coastguard, which maintains it carried out its life-saving responsibilities, has maintained that all passengers refused assistance prior to the vessel capsized and has denied blame for the sinking on multiple occasions.

In addition, Levidis noted that the evidence gathered by the Hellenic coastguard subsequent to the sinking raises concerns.

He stated that the authorities’ process for gathering evidence could have been improved if not tampered with entirely.

On that day, the PPLS920, a Greek coastguard vessel, failed to transmit any data about its whereabouts.

Levidis stated that the optical and thermal cameras on board the ship failed to capture any footage “despite the fact that it is a brand-new, cutting-edge, extremely expensive vessel.”

The phones that were seized from the survivors subsequent to the shipwreck needed to be found. They were ultimately not scrutinized despite being discovered inexplicably over a month later on a different Hellenic coastguard vessel off the coast of Kythira, Greece.

Two months after the incident, the phones belonging to the coastguard personnel were seized, and the bridge logs of the PPLS920 and the captain’s testimony contain numerous inconsistencies.

The official investigation into the coastguard’s involvement is not yet complete, which creates a significant risk that these nine survivors could be found guilty on the basis of insufficient and dubious evidence, according to Judith Sunderland, associate director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch. “In order to establish credible and meaningful accountability for one of the most catastrophic shipwrecks in the Mediterranean, Greek authorities must have their liabilities ascertained.”

The case dossier

The testimony of nine survivors predominately supports the charges brought by the prosecution.

The defense attorneys assert that these testimonies seem to have been “extensively copied and pasted from one another.”

“Not only do these testimonies bear significant resemblance to one another, but they were also collected under dubious conditions, specifically during the survivors’ detention in a warehouse in Kalamata immediately after their rescue from the perilous shipwreck.” “The authenticity and dependability of these items are called into question by each of these factors,” stated Bouchetel of the Lesvos Legal Centre.

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The inclusion of communications from the Hellenic coastguard boat, data from adjacent planes, and an examination of the mobile phones confiscated from the survivors by the coastguard are additional elements that the Legal Centre Lesvos contends should have been incorporated into the investigation.

The inquisitor judge denied the defense’s request for additional evidence to be presented in the case, and six months later, the case file was sealed.

“At first glance, the survivors themselves were held accountable for this tragedy, notwithstanding the accumulating evidence implicating Greece,” stated Bouchetel.

“This reversal of circumstances exemplifies the concerning trend of criminalization occurring in Greece: migrants are unjustly convicted of smuggling offenses, frequently on the basis of scant and dubious evidence, so that state-sponsored atrocities, violence, and border patrol failure to intervene.”

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