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Politics

Mati Fire Investigator’s Request for Felony Charges Turned Down Again

January 31, 2021

ATHENS – Despite a reported mountain of evidence and witness testimonies of negligence by fire authorities and the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA in the July 23, 2018 firestorm that killed 102 people, a prosecutor won’t let an investigator bring felony charges against them.

So far those accused are facing only misdemeanor charges despite the overwhelming tragedy and independent reports that said the former government had no disaster plan and a chaotic failed response that led to the high death toll.

Judicial investigator Athanasios Marneris for two years has been examining the case file and former government and fire department's alleged mismanagement that brought out stinging discoveries, said Kathimerini.

A third different prosecutor now has barred more serious charges being brought with no one taken to trial yet, some 2 ½ years later as cases in Greece can drag on for years until almost forgotten.

According to reports not specified, prosecutor Giorgos Noulis deemed that there was no new evidence to substantiate the request, the paper said but there was no explanation why after Marneris said he produced it unequivocally.

His lengthy findings said officials faked and falsified reports to cover their failures and protect themselves, lied about when firefighting planes were dispatched and that a state of emergency had been declared in the area northeast of Athens, including for the devastated seaside village of Mati.

Dozens of fire and other officers and witnesses on the ground indicated the Hellenic Fire Service especially mishandled the response although the government of former premier Alexis Tsipras had no disaster plan and was accused by critics of bungling the attempt to control the fire.

“The police had adequate forces to assist in a safe evacuation plan. However, the head of the fire service never issued such an order,” Konstantinos Voutelas, a retired firefighter serving in the Northeast Attica Directorate at the time, told Marneris of the failure to evacuate Mati.

“The distance between Marathonos Avenue and the sea is 500-600 meters, which means that the average resident could have been in a safe place near the water within 15 minutes. We had the time and the personnel to carry out an evacuation… We were ready to go, but the order never came from the fire department,” said an officer with the Traffic Police, which would have been responsible for directing motorists to a safe exit route. He wasn't named.

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