Egypt: Prosecutor demands retrial for 2006 ferry sinking
Scuffles erupted at an Egyptian court on Sunday when five of six defendants were cleared of blame for a 2006 ferry sinking in which over 1,000 people died. Relatives expressed anger as only Salaheddin Gomaa, captain of another ferry, the Saint Catherine, was jailed for six months for failing to come to the assistance of the Al-Salam Boccaccio 98.
According to AFP, public prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud issued a statement after the decision saying he would appeal the ruling, and called for a retrial.
The Al-Salam sank in the middle of the Red Sea on February 3, 2006 as it was carrying more than 1,400 people from Saudi Arabia to the Egyptian port of Safaga.
Dozens of relatives, many carrying photographs of their dead loved ones, were crammed into the court building, although the heavy security presence prevented them from entering the courtroom itself. Most of the victims were from poor families in southern Egypt
Prosecutor Mahmud said he wanted a retrial because of "violations in documented records, corruption in investigation, shortcomings in validatings and arbitrary conclusions," Egypt's official MENA news agency reported. The court found that Gomaa had failed to show "compassion" and "did not do his duty by failing to go to the rescue of victims."
The Saint Catherine captain was also fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds (1,880 dollars).
Key defendant Mamduh Ismail, who owned the 36-year-old Al-Salam ferry and is a member of parliament's upper house which is appointed by President Hosni Mubarak, was acquitted. In June 2006, Ismail was ordered to pay 330 million Egyptian pounds (57 million dollars) into a fund to compensate victims of the disaster and in return, a freeze on his assets was lifted.
Also accused were Ismail's son and three Al-Salam executives. Ismail, his son and one of the executives are not currently in Egypt.
Ismail had denied responsibility for the disaster, and blamed the captain of the Al-Salam, who went down with his ship, for overestimating the crew's ability to fight a fire that had broken out on board.
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