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live The Court of Appeal upholds the sentence of Yanko Stoimenov

07 February 2013 / 10:02:01  GRReporter
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Maria S. Topalova

After several months of hearings in the first and second instance, a verdict of not guilty has not been given in the case of the crash of the Cypriot Boeing 737-300, which took place near Athens on 14 August 2005. The Athens Court of Appeal has confirmed that the three defendants, CEO of Helios Dimitris Pandadzis, director of flight operations George Kikidis and chief pilot Yanko Stoimenov are to blame for the tragic accident that killed 121 people. The judges, however, have replaced the "jail" punishment with a cash bail to the amount of 73,000 euro.

"In fact, the Court of Appeal has changed the four defendants’ charges of felony to criminal offence and it will have an enormous impact on the process in Cyprus, where the employees of Helios have been sued for felony. The second positive development today is that the three of them will not lose their freedom and that the jail was replaced with a cash bail", was the first comment of Stelios Voudouris, defender of the three defendants.

The meeting began shortly before 9.30 am. The chairman of the three-member judicial panel Ekaterini Retsa announced immediately upon entering that the court upheld the guilt of the accused and gave the defenders the floor to present the mitigating circumstances. Defender Stelios Voudouris took the floor and presented the excellent professional reputation of the three defendants. He recalled that Dimitris Pandadzis had 40 years of professional development in the United Kingdom and Cyprus, no professional offences and that he was at the height of his career at the time of the accident. George Kikidis had a 30-year career with an excellent career record too. The lawyer emphasized the brilliant career of Yanko Stoimenov, not only in Bulgaria and in Cyprus but also internationally. He recalled that all three had regularly appeared in court and answered the questions of the investigative authorities. He especially emphasized the presence of Yanko Stoimenov during the court hearings although he did not speak Greek. Stelios Voudouris pointed out that all three defendants were married and had significant social prestige.

After hearing him, the judges gave the floor the prosecutor Pagona Zakka who rejected the arguments of the defence and called for not considering them in the final sentence. The court withdrew for a 10-minute session.

When they returned to the courtroom, Ekaterini Retsa announced that the civil rights of the three defendants would not be suspended and they would not be sent to jail. Then, the fight for the cash compensations began. An elderly woman left of me shouted, "What kind of compensation are you talking about! Jail for them! I do not want any compensation". Prosecutor Pagona Zakka took the floor, requesting compensation of 60 euro per day for the ten years in jail for the three defendants.

The defenders reacted violently. Stelios Voudouris explained that the three defendants were employees rather than businessmen and that there was no way for them to obtain this money. He presented a document from the Cyprus National Insurance Institute, which showed that the annual pension of Dimitris Pandadzis was slightly over 20,000 euro. George Kikidis, who suffers from a serious illness, is retired due to illness and his monthly pension is 1,087 euro. As for Yanko Stoimenov, the defender stressed that the trial burdened him with a huge moral guilt that damaged his career and income, and finding him guilty in the second instance might lead to the revocation of his instructor pilot license and that he was also unable to collect this money.

"I get a pension of just 200 euro per month for my husband, who died in the crash. Do you hear what you are saying?", a woman was grumbling behind me. This time, the court took into account the arguments of the defence and the final financial penalty became around 73,000 euro.

The decision of the court does not satisfy any of the parties – the employees of Helios Airways are not justified and the relatives of those who died in the crash do not get the revenge they hoped to obtain. At previous meetings, Yanko Stoimenov and his defender Stelios Voudouris testified for hours before the judges of appeal - calmly, well- grounded, only with the power of facts and with dignity.

Yet no one can say whether Case 24120/2012 has been closed forever. The court has one month to submit in writing the decision it took today and after receiving it, the defenders will have twenty days to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court of Greece. The appeal, however, will not be against the substance of the sentence, which is final, but only against procedural flaws.

It is not yet clear what the official position of the Bulgarian state is and whether the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will respond to today's developments in Athens.

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Tags: Crime newsPlane crashCourt of AppealYanko Stoimenov
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