The Red Sea Prosecution on Thursday heard the testimony of Mohamed Hashem, lawyer of the families of the victims of the al-Salam 98 ferry that sank in the Red Sea in 2006. The lawyer had submitted a request to the attorney general to reopen investigations into the accident that took the lives of 1032 passengers.
In his testimony, Hashem said former Attorney General Maher Abdel Wahed was under pressure from the chief of presidential staff, Zakaria Azmy, a close friend of the ferry's owner Mamdouh Ismail, to send the case to a misdemeanor–instead of a criminal–court so as to lessen the punishment.
Hashem also accused Azmy of helping Ismail monopolize the ferry lines between Red Sea and Saudi ports and operate ferries that are not equipped for long journeys. “This is why incumbent Prime Minister Essam Sharaf was dismissed when he was minister of transport at the time,” he said.
“Azmy was a partner in Ismail’s company,” he added.
Hashem also presented a registered statement by survivors of the accident, saying that they saw lifeboats carrying 34 passengers to Hurghada Hospital but later found their names on the missing list. “This means they are still alive but were kidnapped for some reason,” he said.
He also said the prosecution at the time found out that the ferry is not equipped to sail for more than 20 nautical miles, according to a certificate issued for it from Panama.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.