NEWS

Twenty charged over deadly 2018 Attica blaze

IOANNA MANDROU

TAGS: Fire, Justice, Crime

Following seven months of investigations into the deadly fires that killed 100 people and destroyed parts of eastern Attica last July, prosecutors on Tuesday brought charges of negligent arson, negligent manslaughter and grievous bodily harm through negligence against 20 current and former state officials.

Compiled by three prosecutors, the report exposes the incompetence of the state to protect lives and property from such disasters, highlighting the lack of organization, coordination and efficiency in tackling the blaze that quickly spread through the region on July 23.

The suspects include Attica Regional Governor Rena Dourou, Marathon Mayor Ilias Psinakis, Rafina Mayor Evangelos Bournous, former fire service chief Sotiris Terzoudis, the current head of the fire service Vasilis Mattheopoulos – who was then deputy chief – and former general secretary for civil protection Yiannis Kapakis.

Charges have also been brought against the 65-year-old man who is believed to have started the blaze by allegedly burning wood outside his home in the Daou area of Mount Pendeli on July 23.

The above crimes carry a prison sentence of up to five years, which could in exceptional circumstances reach 10 years. Although the charges are considered misdemeanors, the file will be sent to an investigative magistrate due to its seriousness.

According to information, in their report, the three prosecutors cite a “complete lack of communication” among the competent authorities in handling the blaze, “the chaos and collapse of the state’s systems, the culpability of competent services, and criminal mistakes and omissions in addressing the deadly fire.”

Illegal construction, which was presented by government officials last year as one of the causes of the blaze, was not included in the report.

Prosecutors also mention numerous omissions by local government and blame the fire service, the police, regional authorities, the two municipalities in the region (Rafina and Marathonas) and the general secretariat for civil protection for lack of coordination and mistakes in tackling the fire.

Other prosecutors are also looking into separate cases linked to the blaze, other state officials and urban planning violations.

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