Egyptian Court acquits accused in train disaster trial
A Cairo court acquitted on Sunday all eleven state employees on trial for Egypt's worst-ever train disaster, which left 361 dead in February, saying those really responsible for the tragedy are still free.
"The report submitted by the accident's investigators provides no real evidence condemning the accused", the head judge of the Giza district court, Saad Abdel Wahad, said, according to AFP.
"Those really responsible are free," he added, calling the defendants as much victims of the tragedy as those who died, and implying the 11 charged with responsibility for the accident were simply scapegoats. "Egyptian justice is tired and has had enough of being presented with minor civil servants in these kinds of trials," he added, making it clear higher officials bear the real blame for the tragedy.
Relatives of the accused greeted the verdict with cries of joy, including "God is great" and "Long live justice". Others danced and embraced each other in the courtroom.
On February 20, 361 people were killed by a blaze in the packed third class coaches of a train connecting the capital of Cairo to Asswan, which broke out about 70 kilometers south of the capital.
The fire, blamed on a portable stove, resulted in the deadliest train tragedy in the North African country’s history. Transport Minister Ibrahim al-Demeiry and the head of the railroad authority, Ahmed al-Sherif, both resigned.
Calling upon the government to appoint competent people to senior posts, Wahad said, "Although five months have elapsed since the beginning of the trial, and the memory of the victims calls us to pronounce convictions, the court did not hesitate a moment in acquitting the accused, who are just as much victims as the casualties of the accident."
He blamed the disaster on "flagrant negligence on the part of the railway authority and the transport police." In addition, he cast doubt on the theory of a portable stove, put forward by Prime Minister Atef Ebeid when he visited the scene shortly after the fire, being the cause.
Ebeid swiftly ruled out any fault in the security systems or failings of the railway staff. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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