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Politics

EU Prosecutor Says Greece Blocking Probe into Deadly Train Crash

BRUSSELS – EU Chief Prosecutor Laura Kövesi said Greek officials are putting up roadblocks in an investigation into a February 2023 train crash that killed 57, after a survey found 77 percent of respondents said they believe it’s being covered up.

“We are blocked from finding the truth and applying justice. Because if you are forbidden from doing the investigations, you cannot find out the truth”, Kövesi told Greek TV Star in an interview, said Euractiv.

https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/eu-prosecutor-says-greece-obstructing-investigation-into-deadly-train-accident/

More than a year after the tragedy no one has been taken to trial and only the stationmaster and a few railway executives have been charged while the then transport minister, Kostas Karamanlis, resigned and was elected to Parliament.

A parliamentary committee controlled by the ruling New Democracy – the discussions kept secret – voted against setting up a preliminary investigating panel and said no politicians had any criminal responsibility.

Relatives of victims gathered 1.3 million signatures in a petition demanding the end of immunity for ministers and lawmakers but it was ignored although Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said those responsible would be held accountable.

Referring to the Greek ministers’ immunity, Kövesi said the provision in the constitution must change and added that she has made such a request sending a letter to the European Commission – whose President Ursula von der Leyen vacationed with Mitsotakis.

In March 2023,  Euractiv revealed that the EU prosecutor had already stepped in before the accident and was looking into a 2014 contract about upgrading the signaling system and remote controls. Karamanlis said he didn’t have time to get them all operating.

The 717 contract was never implemented, and the signalling and surveillance system is still not in place, most Greek railways still operating manually although they were taken over by an Italian operator that wasn’t charged over the disaster.

“If the project had been finalized in time and properly, this (accident] would have never happened .… this trauma cannot be healed without justice,” Kövesi added, although it wasn’t said what steps she would take next.

The European Parliament also passed non-binding resolutions calling on the government to speed the investigation and Dutch EU lawmaker Sophie in ‘t Veld said of the crash that, “I think we can see how corruption may literally kill.”

A report drafted by an expert hired by the victims’ relatives and seen by Euractiv suggests an area of about two acres was filled with gravel and concrete after the accident, going against traditional research protocol, contaminating the site.

“This action makes it difficult for the research and, above all, the taking of samples that might help to clarify several of the research questions,” the document said, earlier reports saying that it hampered the work of investigators.

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