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live The Supreme Court of Greece will consider Yanko Stoimenov’s appeal

28 May 2013 / 13:05:30  GRReporter
3939 reads

Maria S. Topalova

A five-member panel of the Supreme Court of Greece presided by judge Konstantinos Frangos has decided to consider Yanko Stoimenov’s appeal in which he seeks the annulment of the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which found him among other persons guilty of the crash of the Boeing 737 of Cypriot Helios Airways. The incident happened on 14 August 2005 near Athens.
    Three employees of the airline - Dimitris Pandazis, president, George Kikidis, Director of Flight Operations, and Yanko Stoimenov, chief pilot, were found guilty of the crash and sentenced to 10 years in prison entitled to cash redemption to the amount of 70,000 euro. The three sentenced persons have paid their obligations to the Greek state but filed an appeal to the Supreme Court for gross procedural violations and asked it to cancel the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
     None of the three convicts had appeared personally in court; they were represented by lawyer Ioannis Iriotis. However, some of the relatives of the victims and their lawyers were in the courtroom. Judge Konstantinos Frangos gave Ioannis Iriotis the floor first who, within 30 minutes, submitted the convicts’ arguments for gross procedural violations during the trial at the Court of Appeal. The judges were listening carefully and at times, his words provoked conversations between them. The lawyer suggested that he could curtail his statement in order for the judges to freely exchange opinions but they refused.
    The prosecutor of the Supreme Court Kanellopoulos suggested that the court should reject the appeal of the convicts but the judges have agreed to consider it. They will announce their decision in the next two months.
    After the session of the Supreme Court, lawyer Ioannis Iriotis answered the questions of GRReporter:
Mr. Iriotis, you stated in your pleading to the Supreme Court that Yanko Stoimenov had been deprived of a fundamental right guaranteed by the European Charter of Human Rights, namely the right of the defendant to a translation in his mother tongue. Could you explain your reasoning?

In practice, the trial passed without him knowing what was going on because the court had appointed an interpreter who did not know English. There were plenty of very specialized terms in the field of aerospace and aviation, which the interpreter could not understand and translate. Witnesses with specialized technical knowledge testified in connection with very specific and concrete issues. Yanko Stoimenov had to know what the witnesses were saying in order to be able to defend himself in compliance with not only the European legislation and the European Charter of Human Rights but also with the Greek Penal Code. The interpreter did not translate well and Yanko could not defend himself. This is absolutely unacceptable in the proceedings and that is why we want the judgement to be cancelled.

Several times, Stoymenov and we, his lawyers, protested that the interpreter did not translate correctly, that the accused did not understand what was happening in the courtroom and that his human rights were violated. The Court did not accept our requests and rejected them with the formal argument that the interpreter was on the official list of court interpreters and had extensive experience. In our opinion, this was not a reply to the point but a superficial reply in order for the court to get rid of this difficulty. Essentially, however, his rights were violated, and therefore, we want the sentence to be cancelled.

You also dispute the court's conclusion that Yanko Stoimenov had not performed his professional duties.

The second reason why we dispute the decision of the Court of Appeal is that they told him that he should have trained and tested the pilots on specific topics – first, under conditions of slow depressurization and secondly, on the signalling alarm systems of the plane. Under Greek criminal law, in order for a person to be convicted and sentenced for breach of his duties, the court must record the law that defines these duties. I.e. they had to write: "In the JAR-OPS (Joint Aviation Requirements for the Operation of Commercial Air Transport - author's note), this or that article, this or that paragraph states that the pilots should be trained on to how to act in the event of slow depressurization and on the signalling alarm systems of the plane."

However, there is no such obligation. That is to say, that Yanko has not breached any duties that are imposed by international law. However, the court wrongly believes that he had to train and test the pilots for the signalling alarm systems every 6 months. This is not true and it is not legal. Under international law, the pilots have to be trained and tested for the signalling alarm systems every three years, which had been properly done. They had both the formal and effective skills to fly this plane. Therefore, Yanko had not ignored any of his duties and he is not to be blamed in the case.

In your pleading, you pay special attention to the report of one of the expert witnesses questioned in connection with the case - Alexander Fischer. Why is that?

Tags: Cypriot Helios AirwaysAircraft crashYanko StoimenovSupreme CourtVerdictCourt of Appeal
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