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Greek judge acquits nine survivors accused of causing the Pylos shipwreck

A JUDGE in Greece acquitted nine Egyptian men today accused of causing the deaths of hundreds of people in one of the worst refugee shipwrecks in Europe in recent years.

A seriously overcrowded fishing boat carrying around 750 people — mainly from Pakistan, Syria and Egypt — sank 45 miles off the coast of the south-western town of Pylos on June 13 2023.

The Greek maritime authorities and the European Border and Coastguard Agency (Frontex) were aware of the ship and the state it was in the day prior.

But, instead of launching a rescue, the Greek coastguards merely observed it and turned down Frontex’s offer to help.

The boat capsized shortly after the coastguards came close to the ship on the evening of June 13.

Only 104 of the 750 people survived.

The authorities arrested nine of the survivors, dubbed by campaigners as the Pylos 9, and accused them of “the illegal trafficking of foreigners.”

Days later, survivors told a Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) politician, Kriton Arsenis, that the Greek coastguards were towing the overloaded boat when it sank.

A later investigation by the Netherlands-based Lighthouse Reports project found that the Greek coastguard had tampered with survivor statements and pressed survivors into naming certain people as the smugglers.

Then today, the judge at the court in Kalamata dismissed the case, ruling that the Greek authorities do not have jurisdiction since the shipwreck occurred outside its territorial waters.

One of the Pylos 9’s lawyers, Dimitris Choulis, said attention should now turn to how the boat sank.

“The court today had to be very brave to issue this decision, and to say that these people are not the smugglers,” he said.

“So now the narrative of the bad smugglers does not exist any more, so we need to find who caused the shipwreck.”

The distress hotline organisation Alarm Phone said it was relieved that the charges had been dropped, and the nine were free.

“We call for the freedom of so many other people on the move who face criminalisation in Europe,” the group said on social media today.

“Free them all!”

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