CAIRO: The first appeal hearing of the Maadi ferry case Saturday, which left nine girls dead, two missing and three injured, was adjourned to Sept. 4.
Islamist lawyer Montasser Al-Zayyat joined the team representing defendant Ali Eweis, the 18-year-old who rented out his older brother’s small boat to15 school girls and their supervisors on July 16.
The boat, which had the capacity to hold only six people, sank within minutes of sailing. Eweis jumped out, leaving the victims, who were on a church-organized trip along the river, to their fate.
Eweis was promptly sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges that included involuntary manslaughter, injury to others, and possession of an unlicensed boat.
Adawi Abdel Nabi, Eweis’ lawyer, described the court’s verdict as an “arbitrary ruling”.
“All we want is for justice to be served,” Abdel-Nabi told Daily News Egypt, hoping to secure a reduced sentence for his client.
He referred to the case of Al Salam 98 ferry, which, in February 2006, sunk about 80 kilometers off the Egyptian coast on its way back from Saudi Arabia, killing more than 1,000 people.
Ferry owner, Mamdouh Ismail, was convicted in absentia in a misdemeanors court of involuntary manslaughter in March 2009.
“Mamdouh Ismail killed [around] 1,300 people and was sentenced to only seven years in prison,” Abdel-Nabi told Daily News Egypt.
Abdel-Nabi implied that the harsh sentence handed down to Eweis was politically-motivated because the victims are Christian.
“It was just an accident,” he said.
“Muslim or Christian, we are all brothers here; there’s no sectarian issue related to this case,” he added.
Peter Al-Naggar, lawyer representing the victims’ families, told Daily News Egypt, “the court made no mistake in implementing the law, the maximum punishment according to law is 10 years [in prison].”
“The circumstances of the case justify the sentence; the defense team admitted to the court that the boat had a hole in it, didn’t have a license, and didn’t have the necessary safety equipment onboard,” he added.
However, Abdel-Nabi accused the Water Police Authority and the governor of Helwan of negligence, and insisted they too be held accountable for the accident.
Members of the Water Police Authority arrived at the scene of the accident about two hours late despite laws stipulating the presence of rescue units every 300 meters along the river.
Al-Nagger said that he would take the necessary legal procedures to guarantee that the governor of Helwan pay civil compensation to the victims’ families of no less than LE 5 million.