Victims’ relatives still seeking justice

The hearing of criminal cases against those accused of responsibility for buildings that collapsed in the quake began two years ago. Some of the cases have been written off, but none of those already heard have been issued with a final ruling. At the same time, several civil suits are still pending. At all of the hearings, both criminal and civil, the scene is the same – the owners of collapsed buildings, civil engineers and architects are in the dock, while there is evidence of shoddy construction, omissions, violations of the building code, as well as descriptions of horrific scenes and loss. The angry relatives and friends of the victims seek justice that it seems may be late in coming, if at all. The largest case in terms of the numbers of the accused and victims concerns the collapse of the Ricomex factory, in which 39 people died. The civil appeals court awarded 2 million euros to six families who lost loved ones in the wreckage, a ruling that was ratified by the Supreme Court plenary, despite a recommendation by the public prosecutor that the case did not indicate «malice aforethought.» A criminal court gave civil engineers Alexandros Dovas and Nikos Scholidis suspended sentences of five years for negligent manslaughter, but found engineers Emmanouil Kotzastratis and Athanassios Vassilakis innocent of the charges, though after protests from relatives, the public prosecutor lodged an appeal. Another eight people died in the collapse of the Faran factory. Here the court found that the «malice aforethought» charge did not apply and convicted the owners and board members Dimitris, Marios and Nikos Katsikas to suspended sentences of two to four years’ imprisonment. The owner of the Fialoplast factory, where two people were killed, died before the case could come to trial. Finally, the trial of those accused in the collapse of an apartment building in Nea Philadelphia, killing eight occupants, resulted in a surprise ruling of innocent for all eight defendants, though the victims’ relatives have appealed.