Greek station master’s court view delayed as anger moves | transport News
The station master involved in Greece’s worst ever train crash had his court appearance postponed until Saturday as the country awaited more complaints about the crash that killed at least 57 people.
Thousands of protesters have shown up across the country since Tuesday’s crash between a passenger train and a freight train, with public anger mounting over the government’s failure to manage the rail network.
More demonstrations were expected in several major cities on Saturday night, and a large gathering of students and railway workers was planned for Sunday in the capital’s Syntagma Square, next to the parliament.
The master of the station in Larissa, central Greece, has admitted that he is responsible for the accident, which saw the two trains running on the same track for several kilometers.
The 59-year-old was expected to appear in court on Saturday where he could face charges of negligent homicide but will now appear on Sunday, his lawyer said.
The train was carrying many students returning from a holiday weekend and at least nine young people studying at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki were among the dead, while 26 others were injured.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is seeking re-election this spring, has blamed the disaster on “terrible human error”.
But protests blaming government mismanagement continued on Friday in the capital, Athens, and several major cities across Greece, with more planned for the weekend.
“It was not an accident, it was a crime,” Sophia Hatzopoulou, 23, a visibly angry philosophy student in Thessaloniki, told the AFP news agency. “We cannot watch this happen and be passive. “
She said she and her classmates “were familiar with people who had been killed or injured”.
“It’s like a part of us has been lost.”
The station master faces life in prison if found guilty, but his lawyer has argued other issues were involved.
“My client has accepted his share of responsibility,” said lawyer Stefanos Pantzartzidis on Thursday. “But we can’t focus on a tree when there’s a forest behind it.”
The country’s public broadcaster ERT said the station master had been appointed just 40 days earlier – and after just three months of training.
Thousands gathered on Friday outside the headquarters of Athens operator Hellenic Train – which took over network operations in 2017 – to protest decades of failure to improve rail network safety, despite calls close in the past years.
Hundreds of people observed a moment of silence outside the Greek parliament as a tribute to the victims of the disaster.
At the rally in Syntagma Square, next to the parliament, officers fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, an AFP reporter said. About 3,000 people turned up for the show.
A similar number emerged in Thessaloniki – Greece’s second largest city – where police reported clashes on Thursday with demonstrators throwing stones and petrol bombs.
Demonstrations were also held in other Greek cities on Friday: around 700 turned out in Larissa, the city closest to the crash site, and 500 demonstrated in the university town of Patras in the southwestern Peloponnese, which according to police.
Roubini Leontari, head coroner of the Larissa general hospital, told ERT on Thursday that more than 10 people were still unaccounted for, including two Cypriots.
Greece’s train services were paralyzed on Thursday by striking workers who argued that ongoing management mismanagement of the network had contributed to the deadly accident.
That strike continued until Friday and is expected to continue for another 48 hours.
Rail unions say safety problems on the Athens-Thessaloniki railway line have been known for years.
Legal sources suggested that investigators were considering criminal charges against members of Hellenic Train’s management.
Police seized audio files and other materials during a raid on the Larissa train station in central Greece, where the crash took place, a legal source said.
For decades, Greece’s 2,552km (1,585-mile) rail network has been plagued by mismanagement, poor maintenance and outdated equipment.
After the country’s transport minister resigned on Wednesday following the accident, his replacement, Giorgos Gerapetritis, promised “a complete assessment of the political system and the state”.
Safety systems on the line are still not fully automated, five years after Greek state-owned rail operator TrainOSE was privatized and sold to Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane and became Hellenic Train .