Trial of nine alleged smugglers starts in Greece after deadly shipwreck

Trial of nine alleged smugglers starts in Greece after deadly shipwreck

KALAMATA, Greece, May 21 (AFP/APP): The trial of nine alleged smugglers began in Greece on Tuesday. This is nearly a year after a migrant boat sank.

The rusty and overloaded trawler Adriana sank on June 13-14, 2023. It had over 750 people on board.

Only 82 bodies were found. Nine Egyptian men, among 104 survivors, are in court.

They face charges including negligent homicide and facilitating illegal entry. They deny responsibility.

Their lawyers claim the Greek coastguard failed to rescue the boat. The accused are aged 21 to 37.

They face life imprisonment if convicted. Dalia Abdel Megui, an aunt of one accused, attended the trial.

She said her nephew came to Europe for a better future and is not a criminal. Lawyers argue the Greek court is not competent.

The sinking occurred in international waters. Protesters outside the courthouse clashed with police.

The defense claims procedural violations in the investigation. The suspects were arrested shortly after surviving the sinking.

Human Rights Watch warned that the trial’s evidence might be incomplete and questionable. The trawler was heading from Libya to Italy.

It had over 750 people, including Syrians, Palestinians, and about 350 Pakistanis. The Greek coastguard claimed they offered help.

Survivors said they tried to tow the overloaded trawler. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called the accusations against the coastguard unfair.

An investigation into the coastguard’s actions is ongoing. Rights groups argue the trial criminalizes asylum seekers in Greece.

Greek prisons hold around 2,000 migrants accused of being smugglers. This is the second largest group in the prison population.