Court sets July date for sentencing over ferry disaster

Safaga Misdemeanor Court on Wednesday postponed the trial of a maritime fleet commander and another defendant in the case over the 2006 sinking of Al-Salam 98 ferry, which caused more than a thousand deaths.

The court postponed the trial of Mamdouh Abdel Qader Oraby, director of the maritime fleet at Al-Salam Maritime Transport, and another defendant in the case, Nabil Shalaby, to 25 July for the sentence hearing.

The ferry sank in the Red Sea in February 2006, about 90 km away from the port of Safaga in southern Egypt. The ferry had been traveling from the Saudi port of Daba with about 1,400 people and 220 vehicles on board.

About 1,034 people died in the accident, most of whom were Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia, as well people who had traveled to the kingdom on pilgrimages.

Security forces arrested Oraby, who had been sentenced to prison in March 2009, in King Mariot neighborhood in Alexandria last April. He appealed the verdict and Safaga Misdemeanor Court granted him a retrial.

Oraby’s attorney demanded the defendant’s acquittal because of the statute of limitations on the case. He asked for the reversal of the 2009 verdict against his client and the other defendants, including ferry owner Mamdouh Ismail, who was sentenced to seven years in prison but is currently in the UK.

When the lawyer asked for the acquittal of his client, some of the victims’ family members started beating and cursing him until security forces intervened.

The court in 2009 had sentenced both Oraby and Shalaby, the branch manager of Al-Salam Maritime Transport, to three years in prison.

Ismail, a former MP, was sentenced to seven years on charges of “manslaughter, neglect and inaction in saving the victims.”

Government reports have attributed the sinking of the ferry to a fire in one of its engines. The fire spread to the ferry parking garage before it burned down completely.

But independent reports said the safety precautions used on the ferry were limited, with a lack of sufficient lifeboats for all passengers and the fact that the crew had allowed a higher number of passengers on board, surpassing the boat’s capacity.

Opposition newspapers have accused the government of helping Ismail and his son travel to London before the attorney general issued a warrant for his arrest. Ismail was a member of the National Democratic Party Shura Council.

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