Egyptian Ferry Verdict Infuriates Relatives
To the shock and anger of the victims' relatives, the well-connected owner of the Egyptian ferry that sunk in 2006, killing over a thousand people, was acquitted of all charges.
Relatives of the victims scuffled with security forces while others denounced the judges and defendants.
The ferry's owner, a rich businessman close to Egypt's political elite, and four others were acquitted.
A captain of another ship was found guilty of failing to help the stricken ferry and was jailed for six months.
"We are stunned. There can't be a ruling like this," said Asaad Heikal, a lawyer for several victims' families.
"We will not give up and will appeal the ruling," he told reporters outside the Cairo courthouse on Sunday.
Owner Mamdouh Ismail, a member of Egypt's upper house of parliament at the time of the disaster, was tried in absentia because he left for Britain after the ferry disaster.
The Al Salam 98 ferry caught fire and sank en route to Egypt from Saudi Arabia in February 2006, claiming the lives of 1,034 of the roughly 1,400 people on board.
Salaheddin Gomaa, a captain of another ferry, the Saint Catherine, was sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,880) for failing to come to the aid of the Al Salam Boccaccio 98, the court said.
According to the court's decision, Gomaa failed to show "compassion" and "did not do his duty by failing to go to the rescue of victims." Relatives attempted to enter the courtroom, but were forced back by police.
A 2006 Parliamentary commission into the accident blamed Al Salam for the disaster, arguing that the firm continued to operate the ferry "despite serious defects." Mamdouh Ismail, the owner of the 36-year-old Al Salam, was acquitted on all charges.