ATHENS, March 5 (Reuters) – A Greek railway worker was jailed on Sunday pending an investigation into a deadly train crash that killed at least 57 people.
Protests also echoed after a passenger train and a cargo ship collided head-on on the Athens-Thessaloniki route on the evening of February 28.
Clashes broke out between police and demonstrators after thousands rallied to protest the crash in Athens on Sunday.
The 59-year-old Larissa station master is facing multiple charges of disrupting traffic and endangering life.
The man, who cannot be named under Greek law, was questioned for seven hours before a magistrate on Sunday before being remanded in custody.
“For about 20 cursed minutes he was in charge of security in the whole of central Greece,” said his lawyer Stefanos Panttsartsidis.
On Thursday, Pantzartzidis said his client was devastated and took responsibility “proportionately to him,” but said other factors were at play that went unexplained.
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Railway workers say the country’s rail network is growing under a legacy of cost-cutting and underinvestment, a legacy of Greece’s crippling debt crisis from 2010 to 2018.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who blamed the crash on human error, acknowledged that decades of neglect may have contributed to the disaster.
“As Prime Minister, I owe it to everyone, but I apologize to all the relatives of the victims,” he wrote on his Facebook account. “Justice will quickly investigate the tragedy and determine the responsibilities.”
After three days of protests across the country, around 10,000 people gathered in Athens Square on Sunday to mourn the loss of life and demand better safety standards on the rail network.
“That crime cannot be forgotten,” protestors said, throwing black balloons into the sky. “Their policies cost human lives,” read a placard.
Railway employee unions say safety systems across the rail network have been deficient for years as remote monitoring and signaling systems were not provided on time. They called on the government to provide a timetable for implementing the safety protocols.
Mitsotakis said on Sunday that if there had been a remote system throughout the rail network, “practically, the accident would not have happened”.
Statement by Algis Constantinides and Stelios Mycenas; Additional reporting by Renee Moldesov, Angeliki Goutando and Michael Campos and Angelo Amante in Rome, Angelique Goutando Writing by Frances Kerry and Lisa Schumacher.
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