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Charges dropped against nine men over 2023 migrant shipwreck off Greece

Charges dropped against nine men over 2023 migrant shipwreck off Greece
Protesters gather outside the court during a trial of nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck off Greece last year in which hundreds of migrants died, in the city of Kalamata, Greece, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Renee Maltezou

KALAMATA, May 21 (Reuters) - Charges were dropped on Tuesday against nine Egyptian men accused of causing one of the Mediterranean's deadliest shipwrecks off Greece last year, after a Greek court said it had no jurisdiction to hear the case because the disaster occurred in international waters.

Up to 700 migrants from Pakistan, Syria and Egypt boarded a fishing trawler in Libya that was bound for Italy before sinking off the coast of Pylos, in southwestern Greece, on June 14.

Some 104 survivors were rescued and only 82 bodies were recovered.

The men, aged between 21 and 41, were arrested hours after the boat sank and have remained in pre-trial detention since on charges of migrant smuggling, causing a shipwreck and participating in a criminal organization.

They have denied any wrongdoing.

“This is a great victory for human rights in Greece,” Spyros Pantazis, one of their lawyers, told Reuters.

“Nine innocent men are walking free. Finally, after a huge struggle and pain, justice has been served.”

Defence lawyers, some rights groups and witnesses have long disputed that the men were to blame.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou Editing by Karolina Tagaris and Andrew Cawthorne)

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