Varvara Fytrou, who lost her husband and two children in the deadly Mati wildfire, has submitted a lawsuit against all persons responsible, but also against particular ministers, local government officials and the former chiefs of the Fire Service and Greek police.
The Fytrou family’s tragedy shocked the Greek public, as 13-year-old Evita Fytrou jumped from a cliff in order to escape the fire and was killed. The bodies of her 11-year-old brother Andreas, and her father, Grigoris Fytros, were found charred. The mother was saved because she was at work that day.
A barrage of lawsuits are expected to be filed by victims’ families.
The lawsuit targets Interior Minister Panos Skourletis, former public order minister Nikos Toskas, Attica Prefect Rena Dourou, former civil protection chief Ioannis Kapakis and Marathon Mayor Elias Psinakis.
It also attributes responsibilities to former Fire Service chief Sotiris Terzoudis, and former Greek Police chief Konstantinos Tsouvalas.
The lawsuit states that, “All of the above defendants and all state services officials who are responsible for disaster management believed that they would not face felony charges, even if they executed deficiently the tasks that had been assigned to them. All of the above were indifferent about the actions they should have taken due to their legal responsibility, reconciled themselves psychologically with the danger of the death of our fellow humans, and accepted the result, as they had predicted it and as was proven by the outcome.”
“The charges against politicians concern the fact that they had not opened roads, had not prepared for the summer season, had not created fire-protection zones, had not provided working hydrants and water trucks, had not informed residents to evacuate their homes, and finally did absolutely nothing of the things that the law provides for. The City Council of the Municipality of Marathon and local government, as well as all state services, was informed and had knowledge of the fact that the civil protection mechanism was not functional.”
Regarding the responsibilities of ministers, the lawsuit states, “The remit of the interior ministry includes, inter alia, managing natural disasters. The competent minister was Panagiotis Skourletis. The competent alternate minister for “citizen’s protection”, responsible for civil protection, was the defendant Nikolaos Toskas. The then general secretary for civil protection, Ioannis Kappakis, operated under the direct jurisdiction of the interior ministry.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, during a cabinet meeting on 27 July, 2018, assumed the political responsibility on behalf of the entire government, which is to say responsibility for the wrong political choices.
No political courts
The PM knows that there are no “political courts” in the country, and that one cannot be tried on charges of political responsibility. Consequently, the political responsibility that the prime minister assumed immediately translates into criminal and administrative responsibility of the defendants, and of all other co-responsible and jointly culpable state officials.
Moreover, defendant Nikos Toskas resigned the post of alternate minister and his resignation was accepted. Also, Greek Police chief Tsouvalas and Fire Service chief Terzoudis were replaced, as they were obviously deemed inadequate based on the results.
However, the fact that their immediate political supervisor, who is responsible for the coordination and proper operation of all of the above, Panagiotis Skourletis, did not resign, does not mean that he does not share the same degree of responsibility as those who operated under his authority and resigned.
The responsibilities of the two ministers derive directly from the operational role that they assumed due to their position, at the Fire Service Operations Centre on 23 July, 2018. In successive conferences that took place at the Fire Service Operational Centre, the two ministers abandoned their political role and assumed operational responsibilities.
In all newspaper reports, a clear distinction is drawn between the “briefing” that the PM was offered at the operations centre, and the “coordination of the fire-fighting effort” that the two ministers had undertaken.
According to Vasilis Kapernaros, the attorney for the plaintiff, Varvara Fytrou, criminal responsibility is involved, and there is incontrovertible evidence that voluntary manslaughter or manslaughter with possible malice was committed.
Kapernaros says that the family’s lawsuit will open the way for parliament to probe potential criminal responsibilities of political figures involved in the Mati disaster.