Student sit-ins and protests over train tragedy in Greece

Thousands of Greek students staged sit-ins and demonstrations in Athens and other cities on Friday demanding justice for the victims of the country’s worst rail tragedy.

In the capital, about 2,000 people gathered in the city center to protest the failure of successive governments to improve the security of the rail network, despite calls for attack in years past.

The protesters – most of them university students the same age as the crash victims – were also supposed to head to the headquarters of train operator Hellenic Train.

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“They were as young as we are,” Aphrodite, a 20-year-old biology student, told AFP during a protest in Athens.

Another protester, Maria Psaceli, said her own child often took the same route to go to university.

“I think of the families of the victims,” ​​she said with tears in her eyes.

Similar protests were to be held in Larisa – not far from the crash site – Thessaloniki, Patras and other cities.

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A message attributed to the young victim’s mother – “Write me when you get there” – is posted on placards carried by demonstrators and has become a prominent protest slogan in recent days.

Many protesters carried black flags.

– Many missing –

At least 57 people died Tuesday when a passenger train collided with a freight train just before midnight after traveling several kilometers on the same track.

More than 350 people were on the passenger train, many are still missing.

Most of the victims were 20-year-old students returning from a long weekend.

Students and schoolchildren staged sit-ins in more than two dozen university departments and schools across the country.

Black sheets were draped at the entrances of several universities.

In Larisa, white roses were thrown over the tracks of the local train station.

Stationmaster Larisa, who was on duty at the time of the disaster, was arrested and charged with negligent homicide.

He took partial responsibility for not rerouting the trains and faces a life sentence if found guilty.

Known Train Issues

But trade unionists point out that security problems on the Athens-Thessaloniki railway line have been known for many years.

Safety systems on the line are still not fully automated, five years after the Greek state rail operator Trainose was privatized and sold to Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane to become Hellenic Train.

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“I knew this line was not safe… I was always afraid to take the train,” Aphrodite said.

The bomb threat made against the company on Friday turned out to be a hoax.

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