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Columnists

The Wily Greek Practice of Perfecting the Perfect Coverup

After claiming it wasn’t responsible for refugees on an overcrowded boat who drowned in an overcrowded fishing boat on June 14, 2023 because it was in international waters, Greece’s attempt to blame nine Egyptians sank when a Greek court said it had no jurisdiction. Because the boat was in international waters.

The farce continued almost a year, the Egyptians easy targets after survivors said a Greek Coast Guard vessel caused the boat to capsize and sink after an attempt was made to tow it farther out to sea.

The government went into spin-and-blame-somebody -else mode and denied everything, and all that was missing was Sgt. Schultzopoulos exclaiming “I know nothing!” to deny everything. That’s how it’s played here.

A thorough investigation was promised but never really materialized, and kept secret of course for national security, survivors taken to the mainland and kept away from pesky reporters who wanted to know the truth.

So all those poor innocent people hoping to reach a civilized country but doomed to die, many of them women and children, sank into the deep, dark cold waters in the late night, dying a lonely, horrible death. But it was convenient.

The tragedy came four months after 57 people died in a head-on train crash in Greece, for which a thorough investigation was also vowed – but kept secret, of course – and targeted a few officials, but no one of consequence, so it didn’t matter.

The Gospel died on those train tracks too, and just off them in a literal cover-up – gravel was put down on the site, erasing likely evidence – and life went on, the wagons circled to protect politicians…who weren’t on the train.

In a letter sent by a European Public Prosecutor, Popi Papandreou, on June 2 to the Greek authorities, and seen by POLITICO, she said two former transport ministers, Christos Spirtzis from SYRIZA and New Democracy’s Konstantinos Karamanlis – who resigned over the tragedy – showed likely breach of duty

“We ask for you to take your own actions,” she said. That was to ignore her as 77 percent of Greeks in a survey said they believed the real reasons for the accident, after reports safety equipment wasn’t installed, were covered up.

So tragedies on land and sea were put under gravel and underwater and then everyone had lunch and forgot about it for a while, although these kinds of catastrophes have a habit of rising like floating bodies from the deep.

And while the government wants you to look at all the tourists coming in and spending money, and points to an accelerating economy and foreign investors, it doesn’t want you to recall either of these events. Come on, get over it. Train wreck and refugee boat sinkings? Those are soooooo 2023.

You know if the children of politicians were among the victims on the train, many of them college students en route to studies in Thessaloniki from Athens after the carnival period ended – but the political circus began – someone would pay.

With Greece trying everything it can to keep out refugees – perhaps among them a scientist or doctor or someone who could contribute to society – and denying pushbacks, the boat sinking was a real nuisance, of course.

In January 2023 another Greek court rejected bogus charges of espionage for a group of volunteers put on trial for the crime of rescuing refugees trying to reach the island of Lesbos, including Syrian swimmer Sarah Mardini.

Her gritty saga of helping fellow swimmers cross the sea from Turkey to Greece inspired the film ‘The Swimmers’. A year after arriving in Greece as a refugee she volunteered at an NGO giving aid to others arriving on Greek shores.

The court that dealt with the case finally relieved the Egyptians of the agony of false blame, which means nobody was at fault. They said they were among those on the vessel hoping to find a better life, although the boat piloted by human smugglers was trying to skirt Greece to avoid being caught.

There were up to 750 people on the boat. Just 104 were rescued and only 82 bodies found, the rest eaten by fish or decayed, the horror and suffering unimaginable. Try holding your breath while you swim too long to find out.

‘In The Perfect Storm’, about the sinking of a Gloucester, Massachusetts fishing boat, writer Sebastian Junger described what happened to the six crew members on the Andrea Gail, in a gruesome piece of science.

“The instinct not to breathe underwater is so strong that it overcomes the agony of running out of air. No matter how desperate the drowning person is, he doesn’t inhale until he’s on the verge of losing consciousness.” About 87 seconds.

But the court didn’t rule whether the Egyptians were guilty or not, only that it wasn’t for Greece to decide. So who will? The answer is nobody, because Israel’s at war with Hamas and the Olympics are coming, so fuhgeddaboudit.

One of the defense lawyers, Alexandros Georgoulis, said: “It’s justice, albeit belated, for these people who, in the space of a day, went from shipwreck victims to defendants on serious criminal charges that carry multiple life terms.”

So where’s the justice for the dead? It’s at the bottom of the sea along with the truth.

 

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