Greek court drops charges in migrant shipwreck case

ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/ AFP

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.

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