Softer charges for ’99 quake

Civil engineers involved in the construction of an Athens apartment block that collapsed in the powerful 1999 earthquake, killing 16 residents and injuring 12 more, will be spared criminal charges following a Supreme Court decision, legal sources said on Saturday. The engineers had been charged with murder with possible malice aforethought, grievous bodily harm and breaches of building regulations by the Council of Appeals Court Judges, after being cleared of the charges in January 2002. The Supreme Court has now ruled that the council’s explanation for the malice aforethought charge was unsatisfactory. The 5.9-Richter quake killed 143 people. Judges also confirmed the ruling by the Council of Misdemeanor Court Judges two years earlier, which found that charges relating to bodily harm and building violations had expired. The four-story apartment block was completed in 1979 and there is a 20-year statute of limitations on these type of charges. The case is now being referred back to the Council of Appeals Court Judges.