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Society

Athens Court Reviewing Leniency Verdicts in 2018 Deadly Wildfires Cases

ATHENS – After public outrage over only five of 21 defendants in July 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 104 people being convicted of a range of charges – and allowed to buy out their jail time – the Athens Court of Appeals is taking a second look whether it was too lenient.

The trial took 19 months and the court set aside a prosecutor’s recommendation for tougher sentences and issued a verdict that, apart from the fines, saw nobody severely punished, common in Greece.

The finding came 5 ½ years after the fires that were accidentally started by an elderly man burning brush in the northern Athens neighborhood of Penteli, which was whipped up by high winds that moved like a freight train and almost wiped out the seaside village of Mati.

The delays mean the statute of limitations is running out, leading the court to review whether there should be more stringent penalties, looking at the acquittals and reduced sentences that brought public fury.

The case will be reexamined completely as Greece doesn’t have double jeopardy laws that mean a verdict is final, and allows prosecutors to keep trying defendants over and over in hopes of getting a conviction.

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