One year after the start of the trial for the unspeakable tragedy that unfolded on July 23, 2018 in Mati, the proceedings before the 6th Three-member Misdemeanor Court today entered the stage of the apologies of the 21 defendants.

The round of apologies opened with that of the then head of the Fire Department, Sotiris Terzoudis, who was called to the stage and publicly refuted what was attributed to him for the deadly course of the fire that left behind 104 dead.

Present in court to listen to Mr. Terzoudis were many relatives of the victims of the tragedy as well as his co-accused, including the then regional governor of Attica, Rena Dourou.

The defendants, staff members of the Fire Department, the Civil Protection, the Region and the municipalities of the region etc., are liable, depending on the official positions and responsibilities of each one, for charges concerning serial negligent homicide by omission by obligees and non-obligors, but also causing bodily harm by omission.

At the beginning of his apology the then fire chief, stated: “I want to express my sadness to the relatives of the victims for this tragedy, but I will not say anything more because the words are needless”.

In the continuation of his apology, Mr. Terzoudis turned against the expert of the Prosecutor’s Office, Deputy Dimitris Liotsios, whose conclusion on the causes of the tragedy is a crucial element of the case, in terms of mistakes and omissions that contributed to the result. Mr. Liotsios testified in court for ten consecutive sessions. Mr. Terzoudis also attacked the co-accused, then deputy leader of the PS Vassilis Matthaiopoulos, using harsh expressions.

“Mr. Liotsios is wrong” said the defendant for the expert, stating that the expert reaches conclusions assuming that the day in question was an ordinary day: “The expert, who is flesh of our flesh, said about the usual course of things. This situation was not in the ordinary course of things. This is what the expert writes, but this was not the usual course of things. It was a crazy day, that …” said Mr. Terzoudis, emphasizing the phrase “flesh from our flesh”.

Mr. Terzoudis referred extensively to the framework that defines aerial surveillance and citing relevant conversations that exist in the case file, he said that although the indictment accepts that there was no prevention at the level of surveillance, nevertheless, according to the accused, there was surveillance:Aerial surveillance is planned by ESKE and cannot be more than four hours. These four hours are also recorded in the documents” he said and continued:

“Mr. Liotsios is wrong when he says that these four hours can be renewed. We had two hours, the two-seater Pezetel can do aerial surveillance for two hours.”

Regarding his former deputy chief at the Fire Department, Vassilis Matthaiopoulos, Mr. Terzoudis, in the course of his speech, made it clear that the two co-accused have no communication with each other.

As Mr. Terzoudis mentioned, leaving heavy spikes at the expense of his co-accused: “I read from Matthaiopoulou’s apology that “the repositioning of aerial vehicles proved to be disastrous”. Was the finding made after the fact? What is his role? Decisive or declarative? I want him to answer me in his apology, because we don’t talk. There (at the Unified Coordination Center) he was minister and general secretary. He could go… I don’t know if he’s a coward, but he’s fatalistic and clumsy for sure! The role of the deputy leader is: to correct mistakes. If it happened after the fact, I have nothing to say.”

The accused received questions from the president on the issue of the diversion of an aircraft moving towards Mati and was ordered to head to the refineries in Corinth as earlier a fire had broken out in Kinetta. The issue of diversion has been raised by Mr. Liotsios as well as by Mr. Matthaiopoulos who in his statement to the investigator had characterized the decision “Devastating mistake of Mr. Terzoudis”.

As the then leader told the court: “Mr. Fostieris (then head of ESKE) came to my office and said that there is a problem at Motor Oil. That within Motor Oil there is stigma and that there is fire within. That has haunted me to this day.”

President: Did he tell you who asked him for air support (in Corinth)?

Accused: No, they don’t happen like that at the time. For the weighting there should be sufficient information from the field.

Chairman: Did he tell you where he gets this information from?

Defendant: No, he neither told me nor did I ask him. Since the ESKE commander said so, it is so. Given that I gave my approval for the aircraft to go.

During his testimony, the accused, speaking in a loud tone at one point, told the court: “Forgive my tone, I have the people behind me too, this drama is beyond me. I can not…”.

Mr. Terzoudis will continue his testimony at the next hearing that will be set as the attorneys’ abstention intervenes next week. The president, however, asked the lawyers to request special permission from their Association so that the trial could continue.