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Politics

Former Fire Chief Faces Court Over Deadly 2018 Mati Wildfire

ATHENS – A former fire service chief accused of trying to cover up a failed response to deadly July 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 102 people northeast of Athens and nearly wiped out the seaside village of Mati will go on trial.

Vassilis Matthaiopoulos faces charges of dereliction of duty and coercion, among other alleged crimes after a probe that an investigator said the former chief tried to stonewall.

The trial is due to start Dec. 21 but would likely be immediately continued, said Kathimerini, as Matthaiopoulos will have to defend himself against the charges brought after an investigation by an expert appointed by the Athens Prosecutor’s office, Dimitris Liotsos, looking into possible criminal negligence.

In a lawsuit, Liotsos said he was pressured by Matthaiopoulos to cover up evidence pointing to multiple failures by the fire service in dealing with the fast-spreading blaze that began on the slopes of Mount Parnitha.

Matthaiopoulos will also face counts of breach of duty and attempted unlawful violence, Greece’s state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (AMNA) reported in October.

In June 2020, audio recordings emerged that were said to include threats by Matthaiopoulos against and will be in the court record and the relatives of some victims are pursuing civil suits while other independent reports were damning about SYRIZA’s disastrous response and the death toll.

The suspect said to have accidentally started it, however, has not been identified nor brought to court but 27 others, including former government officials, most from the then-ruling Radical Left SYRIZA are facing prosecution.

 

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