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Petition to Lift Immunity of Politicians in Greece Gets More than 1.2 Million Signatures

Petition Tempe Disaster
Relatives and friends of the 57 victims hold a vigil in Thessaloniki. Credit: AMNA

A petition launched in Greece to lift the immunity of politicians from prosecution following last year’s Tempe rail disaster has gathered more than 1.2 million signatures.

The petition was initiated by Maria Karystianou, the mother of Marthi, a 20-year-old girl who was among the 57 victims of the train collision, which shocked and angered Greeks, on February 28, 2023.

Maria Karystianou, who is also the president of the Accident Victims Association, launched the petition on the first anniversary of the accident saying that many questions remain unanswered in relation to the circumstances, the cover-up of vital evidence, and the fact that no Greek politician has been brought to justice, as ministers responsible have the constitutional right of immunity.

The Constitution of Greece states that any inquiry into political wrongdoing must go through Parliament and, as a result, the majority does not allow investigation. Ultimately, the crimes are written off because they fall under the extremely short statute of limitations.

Petition on lifting politicians’ immunity in Greece gathers pace

The petition signed by more than 1.2 million on Friday morning says:

“Greek citizens demand from the parliament an initiation of proceedings for the revision of the Constitution and the enactment of the law on the liability of ministers, as well as the abolition of parliamentary immunity when criminal liability arises.”

It adds that “the impunity of politicians is not consistent with morality or democracy, virtues of which we are proud.”

Karystianou notes that “justice continues to move at a slow pace,” and “now it does not inspire us with any confidence.”

Having become the voice of the 57 victims, the 180 injured, and a society that lived in a delusion about what was really happening in terms of Hellenic Railways, she has made it her life’s goal “to put those responsible in prison and be punished for all the indifference and their recklessness.”

The investigation into the accident is ongoing amidst bitterness and suspicion on the part of the families affected. The tears of those who lost their loved ones have dried, but the anger remains, still palpable. It has been one year and not one official has taken responsibility for the accident.

A Greek Parliament investigating committee has not produced any valuable results on why so many people were killed and who is responsible. Opposition party representatives have walked out of the committee, blaming the government for the “Tempe crime.” So far, 32 people have been charged while several more might follow.

Opponents of any change on the liability of politicians in the constitution argue that a minister may avoid making lawful but courageous decisions under the threat of a lawsuit.

In other words, a change of the law on accountability without careful prior study may create the opposite problem. Impunity of ministers may give way to endlessly prosecuted ministers.

Related: Relatives of Rail Tragedy Victims Mourn Their Dead at Tempe

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