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Prosecutor proposes referring 27 people to trial over deadly Mati blaze

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An Athens prosecutor on Tuesday proposed referring a total of 27 people to trial, among them some prominent members of the previous SYRIZA administration, over the deadly wildfire that destroyed the seaside resort of Mati, western Attica, in 2018, the worst-affected area in the inferno that killed 102 people and injured scores.

The proposal names the former regional governor of Attica, Rena Dourou, the then General Secretary of Civil Protection, Yannis Kapakis, the former Marathon mayor Ilias Psinakis, and the current head of Greece’s Fire Service, Stefanos Kolokouris, who in 2018 was the head of the Special Disaster Unit (EMAK), along with several high-ranking officials of the Fire Service, Hellenic Police (ELAS) and the Civil Protection. It also names the 70-year-old man who started the fire by burning wood outside his house at the Daou area of Mount Pendeli.

Depending on their official role at the time, the 27 are facing charges of manslaughter by negligence committed through omissions by law enforcement officers, and causing bodily injuries due to negligence committed through omissions. Both charges are misdemeanors. The man who started the fire will face charges of arson. 

Prosecutor George Polykratis’ 680-page proposal is a slap in the face for the officials involved as it refers to “combined, convergent negligent behavior that led to the tragic outcome.”

Naming the causes of the tragedy, the prosecutor notes that the state was “unprepared,” that there was an “insufficient” mobilization of fire fighting forces and that authorities “failed in their assessment” of the risk posed by the fire. He also found that not all available ground and air forces were immediately dispatched, given that a fire had also broken out in Kinetta, west Attica, while there was no proper operational management of the water-throwing aircraft.

The prosecutor’s proposal will be examined by a Council of Misdemeanor Court Judges which, if it agrees, will open the path for the long-awaited trial, more than three years after the deadly fires.

The blaze broke out on the afternoon of July 23 and quickly spread to the seaside towns of Mati and Kokkino Limanaki, east of Athens, destroying houses and forcing residents and tourists to flee for their lives. The fire service was also trying to respond to a blaze in nearby Neos Voutzas and to another in Kineta, that had broken out earlier in the day.