Greek Migrant Shipwreck Case Faces Key Discrepancies

The accusations against nine Egyptians in connection with the deadliest Mediterranean migrant disaster, which killed over 600 people, have been withdrawn by a Greek court.

Human rights organizations had complained that the Egyptians had been cast as scapegoats for the incompetence of the Greek coastguard.

The hearing began in Kalamata, a town in southern Greece. After hearing the defense’s case, the state’s prosecutor asked the court to dismiss the charges, and all nine defendants were found not guilty.

The rusty and overcrowded trawler Adriana went down on the night of June 13–14, 2018, and the suspects were taken into custody hours later. Some were still receiving medical care when they were detained.

The vessel departed from the Libyan port of Tobruk and was believed to have been transporting as many as seven hundred fifty migrants. Although 82 remains were found, the UN estimates that 500 more may have perished, including 100 women and children who were in the boat’s hold.

Among the 104 survivors, nine were Egyptian nationals. They were facing accusations including negligent murder, membership in a criminal organization, and aiding illegal immigration. Consequences of a conviction would have resulted in the man’s life sentences— the youngest being 21, the oldest 37.

Since the tragedy took place in international waters, the defense team contended that a Greek court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the case. At the announcement of the ruling, some relatives of the accused sobbed.

Since a separate probe into the conduct of the Greek government was in its early stages, the court lacked all the facts necessary to determine the defendants’ level of responsibility. No access to the data has been granted despite the coastguard’s assertion that it had conversations with those on board who “refused any help.” A naval court is now investigating the coastguard’s activities.

About fifty survivors went to court in September to sue the coastguard. Asylum seekers have long been criminalized, according to migrant rights advocates, and this trial was only the latest example.

Around 2,000 migrants are now incarcerated in Greek jails on suspicion of smuggling, making them the second most prominent group of inmates, according to the NGO Borderline Europe.