Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Egyptian relatives holding photographs of loved ones protest outside the court.
Egyptian relatives holding photographs of loved ones protest outside the court.

Anger over Egyptian ferry rulings

Five of six defendants were cleared of blame for an Egyptian ferry sinking in which more than 1,000 people died.

CAIRO // Scuffles erupted at an Egyptian court today when five of six defendants were cleared of blame for a 2006 ferry sinking in which more than 1,000 people died, Egypt's worst maritime disaster. Hysterical relatives voiced anger as only Salaheddin Gomaa, captain of another ferry, the Saint Catherine, was jailed for six months for failing to come to the assistance of the Al Salam Boccaccio 98, a judicial source said.

The public prosecutor, Abdel Meguid Mahmud, issued a statement after the court decision saying he would appeal the ruling and called for a retrial. The Al Salam sank in the middle of the Red Sea on February 3, 2006 as it was carrying more than 1,400 people from Saudi Arabia to the Egyptian port of Safaga, where the trial was held. "My brother, my brother," one woman screamed after the verdict, according to footage shown on Al Jazeera television which also showed security men scuffling with relatives and another woman being manhandled.

Dozens of relatives, many carrying photographs of their dead loved ones, were crammed into the court building, although the heavy security presence prevented them from entering the courtroom itself. Others wailed in grief on the steps outside. "God help us, 1,034 people are dead!" shouted one man. Most of the victims were from poor families in southern Egypt, and the court scenes were reminiscent of the emotional outpourings in the days following the sinking as anxious relatives waited in vain for bodies to be recovered.

"The day of the accident everybody saw that the ship was in bad shape and two years later they say the boat was in good shape. It doesn't make sense," one man told Al Jazeera. "This is awful. My wife and children died and after two years everyone responsible is found to be innocent," he said, slamming some of the defendants for leaving the country pending the court's ruling. The court found that Mr Gomaa had failed to show "compassion" and "did not do his duty by failing to go to the rescue of victims".

The Saint Catherine captain was also fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds (US$1,880) at the end of the long-running trial. The main defendant, Mamduh Ismail, who owned the 36-year-old Al Salam and is a member of parliament's upper house which is appointed by the president, Hosni Mubarak, was acquitted. In June 2006, Mr Ismail was ordered to pay 330 million Egyptian pounds (US$57 million) into a fund to compensate victims of the disaster and in return, a freeze on his assets was lifted.

Also accused were Mr Ismail's son and three Al Salam executives. Mr Ismail, his son and one of the executives are not currently in Egypt. In 2006, a parliamentary commission of inquiry blamed Al Salam for the disaster, saying the firm had continued to operate the ferry "despite serious defects" in the vessel. It also said the government "failed to manage the crisis adequately" in the days after the sinking.

Ismail had denied responsibility for the disaster, and blamed the captain of the Al Salam 98, who went down with his ship, for overestimating the crew's ability to fight a fire that had broken out on board. The passengers on the ferry were mostly Egyptian migrant workers, some of whom were bringing months', if not years', worth of savings to their families back home. *AFP

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Ali Benflis, opposition leader and main rival to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika speaks to the press after casting his vote in the presidential elections at a polling station in Algiers on. Former prime minister Benflis ran against Bouteflika in 2004 but lost heavily, charging the vote was rigged 10 years ago and has said fraud will be his ‘main adversary’ during the election. Patrick Baz / AFP Photo

Best photography from around the world, April 17

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Walter Zenga is one win away from claiming silverware for the first time in the UAE. Karim Jaafar / AFP

Walter Zenga seeks early retribution at Al Jazira in Arabian Gulf Cup final

A victory over Al Ahli in the Arabian Gulf Cup final will help prove the Italian has turned around the fortunes of the capital club.

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National