Prosecutor: Ferry sinking is a felony

The Supreme Court prosecutor yesterday took the first step toward overturning a judicial council’s decision that had raised a storm with its proposal that crew members accused of responsibility in the sinking of the Express Samina, in which 80 people died, should be tried for misdemeanors. Prosecutor Evangelos Kroustallakis proposed that the captain and another three officers face felony charges, as should the legal representatives of shipowners Minoan Flying Dolphins. In a bluntly worded finding, Kroustallakis said the ruling by a council of appeals court judges which absolved company officials and sent the four officers to trial on misdemeanor charges (instead of felonies) was vague, contradictory and «lacking in legal foundation.» The judge who investigated the case after the ship sank off Paros on September 26, 2000, had sent six of the ship’s officers and company representatives to trial on felony charges. A department of the Supreme Court will examine Kroustallakis’s proposal and decide whether to accept it, in which case it will ask the appeals court council to re-examine the matter. If it rejects Kroustallakis’s proposal, the case will be heard in a misdemeanors court. Kroustallakis argued that «the images of the sunken ship do not justify any finding that the ferry company’s management was devoid of responsibility.» Another prosecutor had proposed MFD board Chairman Costas Klironomos and board member Nikos Vikatos should face misdemeanor charges for falsely stating that the ship had sufficient life jackets. The appeals court council had ruled that they were not responsible. Captain Vassilis Yiannakis and First Mate Anastassios Psychogios spent 16 months in pretrial detention, facing multiple counts of murder with possible malice (a felony) and causing a shipwreck. They and officers Giorgos Triandafyllos and Gerasimos Skiadaresis are charged with negligence leading to the sinking of the ship and the loss of 80 lives. Kroustallakis said malice could be suspected in that the officers knew the 34-year-old ship had serious inadequacies in its lifesaving equipment, watertight doors were left open, and the crew was not prepared to handle emergencies.