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Two Greek Railways Officials Charged in Deadly Crash Out of Jail

ATHENS – Two Greek railways executives charged in the February, 2023 head-on train crash in Tempe that killed 57 were released from jail, but required to post bonds of 600,000 euros ($649,378) and 500,000 euros ($541,148.)

They weren’t named but also reportedly barred from leaving the country although it wasn’t said if they had to turn in their passports. They were attached to ERGOSE, the projects branch of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE.)

That came as 14 ERGOSE employees and a total of 23 people are facing similar charges by the Greek branch of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) whose chief said the New Democracy government is obstructing the probe.

They are facing charges of fraud, complicity to commit fraud, false certification, breach of trust and complicity to commit breach of trust. The EPPO probe is separate from another being conducted by the Greek judicial authorities.

Those are looking into delays in implementing safety measures through Contract 717 for the automatic operation and signaling of the railway network which hasn’t been done for 10 years, the railways said still unsafe despite the tragedy.

A stationmaster in the post only a few days and without electronic signaling available, and railway executives have been charged, but no politicians although the then transport minister Kostas Karamanlis, who quit, blamed those on duty.

The two defendants were responsible for supervising the implementation of the 2014 contract which involved finishing the Signaling-Telecontrol System on the Athens-Thessaloniki-Promachonas railway section.

“The accused employees of ERGOSE did not have a sincere intention of implementing Contract 717/2014 and its object – which was inextricably linked to the safety of railway services, as proved in the most tragic way by the (2010) accident in Adendros and the recent fatal accident in Tempe, which would certainly have been avoided if the object of Contract 717 had been completed with the ETCS system in operation,” Investigative magistrate Christina Salappa and prosecutor Popi Papandreou said in the case file.

The testimonies of the 23 defendants involved in the case are expected to last until Salappa is expected to hear from 12 more employees of ERGOSE, accused of fraud related to the subsidies paid for the execution of the project.

Two are accused of making a false statement to gain an unfair advantage for a third party; four Ministry of Transport officials with fraud; and five employees at the TOMI-Alstom consortium, responsible for implementing the contract.

The findings of EPPO’s investigation also included the names of two former transport ministers who served from 2016 until the accident, Karamanlis and Christos Spirtzis, who served a SYRIZA government.

After families of victims and 1.8 million people in a petition demanded the end of immunity for ministers and members of Parliament, Spirtzis asked for that protection to be lifted for him but Karamanlis didn’t react.

They are facing allegations of breach of faith with the European Union which provided funding for the railways. Before EPPO began a 2022 probe into the contract, the Athens Court of Appeals looked into it but shelved the case in 2021.

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