CAIRO: On the first appeal hearing against the verdict of the doomed Al Salam 98 ferry case, families of the victims clashed with Al Salam company’s defense committee when the lawyers asked the judge not to allow the families into the courtroom.
In objection, the judges’ panel left the courtroom amidst the chaos, only to return after the police intervened to end the clashes.
The verdict, which was issued on July 27, cleared five of the six defendants of any responsibility for the sinking of the ship, including owner Mamdouh Ismail and his son. None of the five defendants were present at the courtroom on Wednesday.
The defense committee on behalf of the victims presented a request to reconsider all evidence, call the witnesses in to testify again, and to transfer the case to a criminal court instead of a misdemeanors court, according to lawyer Yasser Fathi.
The courtroom was full of families of victims, political activists, political party members and members of the Kefaya movement.
“We want the world to see how the public [from all walks of life] are objecting this verdict, said Fathi.
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the street, employees at Al Salam Company and other supporters of Mamdouh Ismail, who has since fled the country, were also present.
When the verdict was issued last July, lawyers criticized the way former Prosecutor General Maher Abdel Wahed had referred the case to Safaga’s misdemeanors court instead of a criminal court. They claimed that this had paved the way for an acquittal for Ismail and other executives deemed responsible.
On the other hand, current Prosecutor-General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud appealed the ruling only a few hours after it was declared because he believed the court had ignored much of the evidence.
Al Salam 98 Boccaccio ferry sank in the Red Sea on Feb. 3, 2006, claiming the lives of more than 1,000 Egyptians who were coming back from Saudi Arabia.
On July 27, Safaga Misdemeanors Court found owner Mamdouh Ismail, his son Amr and three other Al-Salam Company executives not guilty of manslaughter charges.
Only Alaaeddin Shahin, the captain of another ferry, the Saint Catherine, was sentenced to six months in jail and given a LE 10,000 fine for failing to show “compassion and not offering assistance to the ship, which sank after it caught fire.
The judge adjourned the case till Oct. 8.