Greek officials charged in train derailment, PM promises ‘transparency’

Greek prosecutors on Thursday indicted three more railroad workers in the country’s worst rail disaster, which killed 57 people, as the prime minister promised “absolute transparency” in the investigation into the tragedy.

Public anger soared after the February 28 head-on in central Greece, when tens of thousands of people demonstrated across the country on Wednesday.

The head of the station on duty at the time of the accident, who allegedly sent both trains on the same track by mistake, was charged a few days ago.

A railroad chief in charge of staff rotation who allegedly placed an inexperienced stationmaster on night duty during busy holidays was charged Thursday, a court source told AFP.

Charges were also filed against two other stationmasters who allegedly left early from work. All three face charges of negligent manslaughter, bodily harm and disruption of transport, and could face life in prison if found guilty.

With growing anger over long-standing mismanagement of the rail network, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis opened his first cabinet meeting since the accident, promising “absolute transparency in the investigation to expose errors.”

The conservative leader, who is expected to run for re-election in the coming months, also promised “immediate action to improve the problematic situation on the railroads.”

He promised to “turn heaven and earth” to ensure the completion of security improvements.

“We are all responsible for this, we must be brave enough to admit it,” Mitsotakis said in a televised address.

On Wednesday, huge crowds took to the streets in the largest protests since the plane crash, calling for justice for the victims and the resignation of the government.

Mass protests

They waved banners reading “It’s not an accident, it’s a crime” and “It could have been any of us on that train” as clashes erupted in Athens and Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki.

Greek civil servants went on strike for 24 hours, while doctors, teachers and transport workers also went on strike on Wednesday.

Due to the tragedy, Mitsotakis is increasingly called to leave.

The stationmaster’s initial accusation sparked public anger, and some saw it as an attempt to divert attention from the railroads’ chronic underfunding and mismanagement.

In his speech on Thursday, the prime minister again apologized and said that “we … should not hide behind a series of human errors.”

The Cabinet meeting was the first period of national mourning since the accident.

Later Thursday, a religious ceremony will be held at the crash site in memory of the victims.

Greece’s transport minister resigned after the plane crash, and Mitsotakis is struggling to limit the political fallout and assuage public anger.

He pledged to work with the European Union to modernize the country’s rail network, and on Wednesday met with EU officials for their advice.

The Prime Minister and other politicians suspended their campaign after the tragedy. There are now rumors that the elections, originally scheduled for April, may be delayed until May.

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