The Nine Accused of the Pylos Shipwreck Acquitted Based on the Lack of Jurisdiction of Greek Courts

PRESS RELEASE – Mytilene, 21.5.2024

Today, the Criminal Court of Kalamata acquitted the nine defendants accused by the Greek State of smuggling and illegal entry. It also declared itself incompetent to adjudicate the accusations of membership of a criminal organisation and causing the Pylos shipwreck, in which over 600 people were killed on 14 June 2023. 

Following an objection by the defence that the Court lacks jurisdiction for the crimes of causing a shipwreck and membership of a criminal organisation charges and that in the case of smuggling and illegal entry the legal elements were not fulfilled, the Public Prosecutor and subsequently the Court accepted the objection and dropped the charges against the nine Egyptians. 

This verdict is based on the fact that the alleged offences of the Pylos 9 happened in international waters, so outside of Greek territory and jurisdiction.

Before ruling on the jurisdiction, the defendants were all questioned individually about the destination of their boat, to ensure their intention was to travel to Italy instead of Greece. While confirming the above, the defendants stated that they did not understand why they were being charged nor why they were imprisoned. One of the defendants stated: ‘I do not know why I am here. I went from the sea to prison’.

Two officers of the Hellenic Coast Guard were also questioned, with their testimony limited to determining the exact location of the shipwreck and destination of the migrant boat. This included questioning of the captain of the HCG Vessel 920, the coast guard vessel that many Pylos shipwreck survivors accused of causing the ship’s  capsizing by attempting to tow the boat. However, since the hearing was over before going into the merits of the case, the captain of the Vessel never had to answer for his actions and omissions in open court.

The Pylos 9 defendants, who were facing several life sentences, will now be released from prison. While today’s outcome comes as a great relief, in particular knowing the context of systematic criminalisation of migrants in Greece, it is important not to forget the ordeal endured by the nine accused, themselves survivors of the shipwreck, who despite having claimed their innocence from the outset were nevertheless prosecuted and detained nearly a year, without access to psycho-social support. 

Today’s success is another proof that smuggling charges against migrants are arbitrary and groundless. 

“After almost eleven months since the Pylos shipwreck the Greek judicial authorities should search for the real perpetrators from the Hellenic Coast Guard, and the European politicians who support Greece’s deadly policies at sea,” stated Vicky Aggelidou, defence attorney from Legal Centre Lesvos.

“The courts of Kalamata made the only possible correct decision today. After twelve months in prison, some justice has been served for the nine people wrongfully accused. Now, we expect an in-depth investigation and a procedure in front of the competent courts that will shed light on one of the most deadly shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea,” Natasha Dailiani, defence attorney from Legal Centre Lesvos stated.

Photo Credit: @anastasiavaitsopoulou

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