Lawyers say Egyptians cleared in Greece over migrant shipwreck remain unfairly detained

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Nine Egyptian men cleared by a Greek court of involvement in a migrant shipwreck disaster remain unfairly held in administrative detention days after they were freed from jail, their lawyers said Monday.

A judge in the southern town of Nafplio on Tuesday is expected to hear a legal appeal for their release, the lawyers told a press conference in Athens.

“The decision for their detention is not legal, and has no justification,” said Effie Dousi, one of the lawyers.

The nine men were among the 104 survivors of an overcrowded fishing trawler that sank in international waters off southwestern Greece on June 14, 2023, en route from Libya to Italy.

A total 82 bodies were recovered, but hundreds more people are feared lost in one of the worst migrant shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea.

Greek authorities accused the nine of being among the trawler’s crew — something the defense denied — and brought criminal charges against them including for people smuggling and causing a deadly shipwreck. But last week a judge in the southern city of Kalamata dismissed the case after a prosecutor argued that Greece lacked jurisdiction as the trawler sank outside its waters.

Greece's coast guard was widely criticized for failing to prevent the sinking, despite having a vessel close by, and some survivors claimed the trawler foundered after the coast guard tried to tow it. The coast guard strongly denied that.

A separate Naval Court investigation into the sinking and the coast guard’s actions is still underway.

Dousi said the nine, who have applied for asylum in Greece, had already spent 11 months in pre-trial detention and should now be at liberty.

“These are survivors of a shipwreck,” she said, adding that if the Nafplio court rules against their release, the nine will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Lawyers said the Egyptians are being held in police cells in Nafplio and Athens, and in a migrant detention center in Corinth, southern Greece. They said police ordered their administrative detention because they have no given address in Greece, lack identity papers and allegedly pose a flight risk.


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