Tempe verdict angers

The decision by a Lamia court yesterday to impose stiff jail terms on six of the men at the center of Greece’s worst road accident was initially greeted with satisfaction by the families of the 21 schoolchildren killed in the incident, but this soon turned to anger as four of the defendants had their sentences suspended. The accident occurred in April 2003 at the Vale of Tempe in central Greece when a load of plywood on a truck traveling along the Athens-Thessaloniki highway came loose and sliced through a coach carrying the students and traveling in the opposite direction. The truckdriver, Dimitris Dolas, 45, was found guilty of the manslaughter of 21 youngsters and «breaching the security of transport» – a criminal offense. He was given a 19-year-jail sentence. During the trial, he had been charged with speeding, overloading his truck, using worn tires and driving for too long without stopping for rest. The two owners of the truck, Fotis Kavelidis and Anastasios Kameas, received 18- and 14-year jail terms respectively. The former director of the Alexandroupolis-based Akritas wood-processing company that loaded the plywood, Dimitris Habouris, was handed 13 years in prison. The current company director, Polychronis Dardavounis, received a 13-year term, while warehouse foreman Moises Alexakis was sentenced to four years and eight months in jail. Friends, family and schoolmates of the victims initially seemed satisfied with the court’s verdicts, but the mood in the Lamia courtroom in central Greece soon turned sour as four of the defendants were informed that their sentences would be suspended. As a result, Dolas and Kameas are the only two who must serve their sentences. The victims’ relatives shouted «Shame on you» and «Sellouts» at the judges after the decision was made known. Meanwhile, the court also recommended that the president of Akritas, Athanasios Sarantis, also stand trial, along with his daughter Loukia, who is also a company director. Constantinos Mavromichalis, the coach driver, was allotted 20 percent of the blame for the accident in a civil trial last month but was cleared yesterday of any responsibility for the crash by the Lamia court.

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