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Migrants from Eritrea, Libya and Sudan being assisted by aid workers of the Spanish NGO Open Arms in a separate incident. Alamy Stock Photo

Charges dropped against suspects in Mediterranean migrant boat disaster

The nine men suspected of the organisation of a large-scale migrant smuggling operation that ended in tragedy have been acquitted as incident occurred in international waters.

CHARGES AGAINST NINE suspects in one of the Mediterranean’s worst migrant shipwrecks have been dismissed by a Greek court after accepting that it did not have jurisdiction to try the case.

“The nine suspects are acquitted,” the court declared after accepting the defence team’s argument that as the tragedy occurred in international waters, it could not be examined by a Greek court.

The shipwreck occurred in June 2023, with the UN stating that the trawler had been carrying more than 750 people. Only 82 bodies were found. 

The nine suspects were Egyptian men between the ages of 21 and 37 years of age. They were facing charges which included negligent homicide, participation in a criminal organisation and facilitating illegal entry into the country.

All men had denied responsibility. 

Their lawyers had said they were being scapegoated to obscure the responsibilities of the Greek coastguard, which failed to mount an effective rescue.

The shipwreck had occurred 87 kilometres off the coast of the Greek town of Pylos. The migrants included people from Syria, Palestine, and Pakistan. 

According to the NGO Borderline Europe, Greek prisons hold around 2,000 migrants accused of being smugglers, constituting the second largest group in Greece’s prison population.

© AFP 2024