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December 22, 2011

Cypriot court clears all of wrongdoing in Greek air disaster

Cypriot court clears all of wrongdoing in Greek air disaster

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

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This computer generated image shows the unresponsive aircraft being shadowed by Greek fighter jets.
Image: Anynobody.

A two-year trial concluded yesterday in Cyprus with the court in Nicosia clearing former senior staff of Helios Airways of manslaughter. They, alongside the defunct airline, had been accused of responsibility for killing 119 in a crash near Athens.

All 121 on board Flight 522 were killed but the prosecution did not charge manslaughter in relation to the two flight crew, deeming them partially responsible for their own deaths. The accident remains the worst air disaster to befall both Greece and Cyprus. Most victims were Cypriot tourists.

The Cypriot jet left Larnaca on August 14, 2005. It was headed for Prague in the Czech Republic. Contact was quickly lost with the aircraft, which flew itself as far as the Greek capital on autopilot.

The Boeing 737‘s pressurisation system is believed to have been incorrectly set by maintenance and oxygen starvation had knocked out German Captain Hans-Jurgen Merten and Cypriot co-pilot Pambos Charalambous. They never checked the system before takeoff, which had undergone testing prior to flight.

An alarm had sounded both on the ground and in the air but had been ignored by those flying, as the same alarm was used for a different problem and the pilots therefore misinterpreted the alarm. This design would later be cited by victims’ relatives in a civil case against Boeing.

As the unresponsive jet entered Greek airspace two F-16 fighter jets intercepted. The air force reported back that the civilian craft’s pilots were slumped over the controls. Passengers were similarly incapacitated. The plane reached Athens International Airport — an intermediate stop in Athens was planned — by itself and then began circling the area awaiting human input.

That input eventually came in the form of a trainee pilot working on-board as a flight attendant. Investigators believe Andreas Prodromou had used multiple crew oxygen cylinders to be the last conscious person on board. The fighter pilots were able to watch him enter the cockpit.

Map of the flight path.
Image: Mysid.

F-16 pilot Panayiotis Athanasopoulos was the last person to see Prodromou alive. He previously told the trial of initially receiving no response when signalling the jet in an attempt to get the pilots to follow him, then discovering the flight crew unconscious. The captain was out of sight. He testified he also signalled people wearing oxygen masks in the passenger cabin with similar lack of response. Prodromou, 25, entered the cockpit as the jet began losing altitude.

After trying but failing to resuscitate Merten, the fighter pilots saw the trainee pilot take over the controls himself in a bid to save the plane. He was out of time. By then the aircraft had been in the air for two hours, and it ran out of fuel before it could reach the runway. Although many were deeply comatose from lack of oxygen, everyone on board was still alive when the plane crashed into a mountain at Grammatiko, north of Athens.

Athanasopoulos says he gesticulated to Proprodomou and signalled him to land upon getting his attention. The trainee pilot simply pointed downwards, after which he “looked ahead and did not look towards me again as the plane went down”. The airliner struck the ground levelly on its underside after straightening out moments before impact. It was torn apart.

The following year saw an air accident report primarily citing human error, and an inquiry by ex-Judge Panayiotis Kallis. The Kallis report was never made public. Helios, which was renamed Ajet Airways, closed down in 2006. Helios and Boeing were sued by victims’ relatives; they sought 76 million but reached a settlement for an undisclosed sum. The accident report had also blamed Boeing for an “ineffectiveness of measures” over the dual-purpose alarm system.

The five defendants were charged in 2008. The defunct airline and four senior staff members each faced 119 counts of manslaughter, and alternative counts of causing death by a reckless, thoughtless or dangerous act. This gave a total of 1,190 charges. Manslaughter carries a potential life sentence with up to four years available on the lesser charge. “The charges concern two of the three most serious offences under the Cyprus penal code,” deputy attorney general Akis Papasavvas said at the time.

The prosecution case was that the pilots were unfit to fly and the defendants were negligent in letting them at the controls. The state prosecutor therefore needed to prove the actions of Merten and Charalambous caused the disaster, as well as that those in the dock were responsible for their employment and aware — or ought to have been aware — of inadequacies in their competence.

The prosecution had noted the accused failed to seek references from Jet2, Merten’s last employer. He lost that job owing to failings in his duties and was later the subject of Helios co-pilots’ complaints. Charalambous was considered unlikely to achieve promotion to pilot and his ability to handle stress was questioned at trial.

A file photo of the aircraft from less than a year before it crashed.
Image: Alan Lebeda.

In reaching a majority decision, two of the three judges noted Helios chief executive Andreas Drakos and managing director Demetris Pantazis would be acquitted even if the prosecution proved its case as they were not responsible for employing the pair. This fell to co-accused operations manager George Kikkides and chief pilot Ianko Stoimenov.

In any event, the verdict described “a dead-end for any procedure of identifying the competence of Merten” with only Jet2 among his previous employers being known to have a negative view of him. Subsequent official evaluations rated both him and Charalambous suitably competent to fly.

“The lack of any causal association between the defendants and the negligence they were charged with for the fatal accident completely disconnects the defendants with the accident,” said the 170-page verdict. “Regardless… [of] how the charges are viewed, they remain groundless and without supporting evidence. It’s judged that this reason is sufficient to dismiss all charges and acquit all defendants.”

Assize Court President Charis Solomonides read the decision: “we conclude, without reservation, that no case has been proven prima-facie against all the defendants in all the charges they face and therefore, all the defendants are acquitted and charges are dropped.” Solomonides made repeated mention of an inability for the prosecution to link the pilots’ actions to those on trial, and noted that therefore no assessment had been made of their performance that day.

Judge Nicolas Santis dissented. Nonetheless, he too had criticisms of the prosecution. He said they failed to properly define ‘competence’ and called very few experts to testify. Victims’ relatives shouted in the courtroom after he finished reading his opinion; cries included “killers!” and “is this justice?”.

Victims’ relatives had in fact predicted the acquittal and blamed the state for what they characterised as a poorly presented case. Relatives’ Committee president Nicolas Yiasoumis said “It was common knowledge that proceedings were weak due to the phrasing of the charges.” There were also renewed calls for publication of the Kallis report. Yiasoumis claimed the Kallis report reached different conclusions to those used at trial, and said “We did not believe they could be convicted on the basis of the argument that they had not employed the appropriate staff.”

Attorney General Petros Clerides initially said an appeal will be decided upon once the decision has been read, and that the Law Office was presently studying it. Yiasoumis said relatives may take Cyprus to a European court over the case once Cypriot legal matters are concluded. Clerides has now confirmed an appeal will be filed, which the prosecution has two weeks to do. He defended the performance of those who prosecuted “this titanic case”. The appeal would be to the Supreme Court.



Related news

  • Cypriot court begins Greek air disaster trial” — Wikinews, September 17, 2009
  • “Cyprus charges five over 2005 air crash that killed 121” — Wikinews, December 23, 2008
  • “Cyprus to charge five over 2005 plane crash that killed 121” — Wikinews, November 4, 2008
  • “Coroner makes first post mortems of Athens airliner crash victims; text message was a hoax” — Wikinews, August 15, 2005
  • “Cypriot plane with 121 on board crashes in Greece” — Wikinews, August 14, 2005

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December 11, 2009

Corpse of former President of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos stolen

Corpse of former President of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos stolen

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Papadopoulos’s body was stolen overnight

The corpse of former Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos has been stolen by grave robbers. Officials report that his body was taken overnight from the Deftera Cemetery in Nicosia. The theft was reported one day before the anniversary of his death. Police reported that fresh mounds of dirt were piled up beside the grave. The motive is still unclear.

The leader of the Diko party, Papadopoulos’s former alliance, released a statement. Marios Garoyan called the act a “heinous and terrible crime”.

A heavy smoker, Papadopoulos died on the 12th of December, 2008 after a battle with lung cancer. He was the President of Cyprus from the 23rd of February, 2003 until 23 February 2008.



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September 17, 2009

Cypriot court begins Greek air disaster trial

Cypriot court begins Greek air disaster trial

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

This computer generated image shows the unresponsive aircraft being shadowed by Greek fighter jets

A court in Cyprus has begun the trial of defunct airline Helios and four managers over an air disaster in Greece. The five are facing a total of 1,190 charges after Flight 522 went down near Athens in 2005, killing 121 people.

All defendants entered not guilty pleas, and are alleged by prosecutors to have operated their business in an unsafe manner. It is alleged that the flight should never have been allowed to take off. As well as the company, executive chairman Andreas Drakos, managing director Demetris Pantazis, operations manager George Kikkides and head pilot Ianko Stoimenov will face a full trial when proceedings are resumed on November 27. They will return to the Nicosia court then. The charges include manslaughter and causing death via a careless act.

The route the fatal flight took

The unresponsive Boeing 737, supposed to be flying between Lanarca to Prague, had entered Greek airspace, where it was intercepted by two F-16 fighter jets on August 14, 2005.

The F-16 pilots reported the airliner’s pilots were slumped over the controls. After flying on autopilot for two hours the aircraft crashed near Athens despite the efforts of a flight attendant, who was training to become a pilot, to take control and save the jet.

The subsequent investigation discovered that the pilots failed to adequately monitor the pressurisation system. The plane lost cabin pressure and hypoxia caused the incapacitation of the passengers and flight crew. It is thought that the conscious flight attendant had used multiple crew oxygen cylinders to outlast the others on board. Investigators also believe that the equipment had been left in the wrong setting after testing by maintenance engineers and never checked before flight.

After failing to resuscitate the pilot-in-command, the trainee pilot turned off the autopilot and attempted an emergency landing at Athens International Airport, which the aircraft had been circling in a holding pattern awaiting human input. However, the aircraft ran out of fuel before reaching the runway.



Related news

  • “Cyprus charges five over 2005 air crash that killed 121” — Wikinews, December 23, 2008
  • “Cyprus to charge five over 2005 plane crash that killed 121” — Wikinews, November 4, 2008
  • “Coroner makes first post mortems of Athens airliner crash victims; text message was a hoax” — Wikinews, August 15, 2005

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December 23, 2008

Cyprus charges five over 2005 air crash that killed 121

Cyprus charges five over 2005 air crash that killed 121

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This computer generated image shows the unresponsive aircraft being shadowed by Greek fighter jets

Cypriot prosecutors have charged five people over the 2005 crash of Helios Airways Flight 522. The loss of the Boeing 737 killed all 121 people on board in what was the deadliest air disaster for both Greece and Cyprus.

“The charge sheet was submitted to the court [in Nicosia today [Tuesday], and a response to the charges has been set for February 26,” said deputy attorney general Akis Papasavvas. The names of those charged were not released, and they face charges of manslaughter and causing death by a reckless, thoughtless or dangerous act, which carry life and four year terms respectively. They all worked for Helios.

“The charges concern two of the three most serious offences under the Cyprus penal code,” said Papasavvas. Families of the victims, who had already called for criminal prosecutions, are still carrying out a civil action against the Cypriot civil aviation authority and airframer Boeing. Helios closed in 2006, having been renamed Ajet Airways.

The route the fatal flight took

The unresponsive aircraft, supposed to be flying between Lanarca to Prague, entered Greek airspace, where it was intercepted by two F-16 fighter jets on August 14, 2005.

The F-16 pilots reported the airliner’s pilots were slumped over the controls. After flying on autopilot for two hours the aircraft crashed near Athens despite the efforts of a flight attendant, who was training to become a pilot, to take control and save the jet.

The subsequent investigation discovered that the pilots failed to adequately monitor the pressurisation system. The plane lost cabin pressure and hypoxia caused the incapacitation of the passengers and flight crew. It is thought that the conscious flight attendant had used multiple crew oxygen cylinders to outlast the others on board. Investigators also believe that the equipment had been left in the wrong setting after testing by maintenance engineers and never checked before flight.

After failing to resuscitate the pilot-in-command, the trainee pilot turned off the autopilot and attempted an emergency landing at Athens International Airport, which the aircraft had been circling in a holding pattern awaiting human input. However, the aircraft ran out of fuel before reaching the runway.



Related news

  • Cypriot court begins Greek air disaster trial” — Wikinews, September 17, 2009
  • “Cyprus to charge five over 2005 plane crash that killed 121” — Wikinews, November 4, 2008
  • “Coroner makes first post mortems of Athens airliner crash victims; text message was a hoax” — Wikinews, August 15, 2005

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November 4, 2008

Cyprus to charge five over 2005 plane crash that killed 121

Cyprus to charge five over 2005 plane crash that killed 121

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

This computer generated image shows the unresponsive aircraft being shadowed by Greek fighter jets

Cypriot prosecutors have announced that they intend to charge five people over the 2005 crash of Helios Airways Flight 522. The loss of the Boeing 737 killed all 121 people on board.

Attorney General Petros Clerides announced the plans today, but did not indicate who was to be charged or exactly what the offenses were.

“We came to the conclusion that, from the evidence gathered, a criminal prosecution is justified against several people whom we consider accountable for the plane crash,” he said at a press conference in Nicosia.

The route the fatal flight took

The unresponsive aircraft, supposed to be flying between Lanarca to Prague, entered Greek airspace where it was intercepted by two F-16 fighter jets on August 14, 2005.

The F-16 pilots reported the airliner’s pilots were slumped over the controls. After flying on autopilot for two hours the aircraft crashed near Athens despite the efforts of a flight attendant, who was training to become a pilot, to take control and save the jet.

The subsequent investigation discovered that the pilots failed to adequately monitor the pressurisation system. The plane lost cabin pressure and hypoxia caused the incapacitation of the passengers and flight crew. It is thought that the conscious flight attendant had used multiple crew oxygen cylinders to outlast the others on board. Investigators also believe that the equipment had been left in the wrong setting after testing by maintenance engineers and never checked before flight.

After failing to resuscitate the pilot-in-command, the trainee pilot turned off the autopilot and attempted an emergency landing at Athens International Airport, which the aircraft had been circling in a holding pattern awaiting human input. However, the aircraft ran out of fuel before reaching the runway.

Related news



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February 17, 2008

Greek-Cypriots vote for President

Greek-Cypriots vote for President – Wikinews, the free news source

Greek-Cypriots vote for President

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

File:Güney Kıbrıs Rum Kesimi haritası.png

Map of divided Cyprus. With green colour, the Republic of Cyprus.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Polls have already closed on the Republic of Cyprus in a quite important closely fought presidential election. Official results are expected in a few hours, and two exit polls suggest the three leading candidates, current President Tassos Papadopoulos, Dimitris Christofias, Ioannis Kasoulides are neck-and-neck. An exit poll on state television (RIK) gave each candidate around a third of the vote, with left-wing’s AKEL party leader Dimitris Christofias, marginally ahead. However, another exit poll for the TV channel Mega suggested that president Papadopoulos is ahead of the other two candidates.

Mr.Papadopoulos, a lawyer and convervative politician, became President of the Greek-controlled Republic of Cyprus in 2003. He had expressed his strong opposition to the 2004 UN plan for re-unification of the island and urged Greek Cypriots to vote against the plan in a referendum which took place on March 2004. Cypriot voters are calculated to around 570,000 across the south of the island, most of them voting in four major cities, Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos.

Cyprus is a divided island since 1974, after the Turkish military invasion in the north. Since then, the island remains divided in two parts, the Greek south Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish north (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus). The Greek-controlled Republic of Cyprus is a member of the European Union since 2004 and a member of the euro zone since January 1, 2008.



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August 18, 2007

Plane flying from Cyprus to Istanbul, Turkey hijacked

Plane flying from Cyprus to Istanbul, Turkey hijacked

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Bombardier CRJ-900 operated by Atlastjet Airlines and traveling from Lefkosa (Nicosia), Cyprus to Istanbul, has been hijacked by two men claiming to be al-Qaeda terrorists with bombs.

According to reports, the plane landed at an airport in Antalya, Turkey. At least 136 passengers and six crew members were on the plane, but most reportedly escaped. The hijackers were releasing women from the front of the plane, when most of the passengers and crew escaped through the back. Two crewmembers and four passengers remain on the plane, Tuncay Doganer, president of Atlasjet, said. Doganer said that the hijackers spoke Arabic among themselves, and the AP is reporting that the they are university students from Iran.

The hijackers requested the plane land in Tehran, Iran or Syria. Pilots landed the plane for refueling, but reports say that the pilots were among those who have been released or escaped.

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March 9, 2007

Wall dividing island of Cyprus torn down but divisions still stand

Wall dividing island of Cyprus torn down but divisions still stand

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Friday, March 9, 2007

Map of divided Cyprus.

This street is cut by the Green Line in Nicosia. From the platform, tourists overlook the no man’s land and the Turkish part of the island.

On Thursday March 8, 2007 the government of the Southern Greek part of Cyprus used heavy machinery to allow its military to tear down the five-meter high concrete wall on the Green Line that divides the island.

The wall has stood in the Cyprus capital of Nicosia for more than 40 years. It has been a constant reminder of the political situation of the Mediterranean island (given independence from Britain in 1960) that has suffered divisions since communal violence in 1963 that was only prevented by establishing a United Nations Peacekeeping Force there in 1964. These divisions only deepened when Cyprus was invaded by Turkey’s military in mid-July 1974 after right-wing Greek Cypriots (backed by the military junta ruling Greece at the time) attempted a coup with the intent of joining the island to Greece. The result was a split between the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government in the south and the Turkish Cypriot north (only recognized by Turkey). The division at Nicosia has become a curiosity to tourists who look over it to see the buffer zone between the two factions (a no man’s land with abandoned homes and businesses where no civilians are allowed). The destruction of the wall also brought out curious Cypriots.

Much international pressure had been brought to bear on both sides, and thawing of the relationship between the opposing Cypriots began in 2003 when the Turkish side eased restrictions on travel. Still in 2004 before joining the E.U., Greek Cypriots rejected the UN reunification plan that called for a federation of two states. Then in December 2005 when the Turkish Cypriots created a footbridge for Turkey’s soldiers on the other side, the action drew protests from the Greek Cypriots voicing their security concerns. In January 2007 the Turkish Cypriots began dismantling the footbridge as a gesture of good faith.

At first both Cypriot governments expressed hope of reunification when asked about the demolition. Tassos Papadopoulos, the president in the Greek south stated “Tonight we have demolished the checkpoint on our side.” He went on to call for the Turkish Cypriots to act, saying civilians will not be able to cross “if the troops are not withdrawn”. Rasit Pertev, chief adviser to Mehmet Ali Talat, the leader of Turkish Cyprus said: “This is extremely symbolic… The dynamism created by this move will lead to the opening of the crossing.” Still when the government of Turkey dismissed the move as merely a result of international pressure that did not signify anything, and refused to dismiss its troops in the area (it maintains 40,000 soldiers on the island), sheets of aluminum were put up as a barricade on the Greek Cypriot side early on the morning of March 9, 2007.

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November 19, 2006

ELF Cup kicks off in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

ELF Cup kicks off in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Elfcup.jpg

The football (soccer) tournament ELF Cup (Equality, Liberty, Fraternity Cup) kicked off today at 18:30 (EET) today between Crimea and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in Atatürk Stadium, Lefkoşa, TRNC.

Eight teams are participating in the first edition of the ELF Cup, making it the largest New Federations Board tournament ever. NF-Board teams Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Greenland, Tibet, Zanzibar will be joined by FIFA’s Asian Football Confederation sides Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and non-aligned sides Crimea and Gǎgǎuzia.

The cup is conceived of two groups, with top two teams progressing to the semi-finals. Group A features Gǎgǎuzia, Greenland, Kyrgyzstan, and Zanzibar; while Group B features Crimea, Tajikistan, Tibet and the hosts Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

The event cost the hosts 340,000 YTL, of which they expect to cover half through turnout. Head of Cyprus Turkish Football Federation (Kıbrıs Türk Futbol Federasyonu, KTFF) Niyazi Okutan called for Turkish Cypriots to come and support their national team.



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October 12, 2006

Wikinews Shorts: October 12, 2006

Wikinews Shorts: October 12, 2006 – Wikinews, the free news source

Wikinews Shorts: October 12, 2006

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Kenyan couple caught having sex in mosque

A couple was caught copulating in a mosque during Ramadan in Gilgil, Kenya. They were discovered when a worshipper learned of “strange noises” coming out of a dark corner of the mosques. John King’ori, a senior magistrate said, “Having sex in a mosque is a most abominable thing to religion.”

Two Czechs take Mr Universe and Miss World titles

A Czech, Tomas Bures, today won the Mr Universe title, the same title which launched Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s career. Additionally, a week ago, Czech teenager Tatana Kucharova was named Miss World.

US now qualifies its view that North Korean test was small

After Russia‘s report that the North Korean test was much larger than the American estimate, the U.S. intelligence community is now saying it’s possible the tunnel in which the test took place could have “muffled” the seismic waves and thereby caused the US estimate to be wrong on the downside.

Briefs

  • In danger in Euro 2008 qualifying after disastrous Saturday’s loss against Cyprus in Nicosia, the Republic of Ireland team drew 1-1 against the Czech Republic at Landsdowne Road, Dublin.
  • Tiger Woods won his sixth straight PGA tour event Sunday in Hertfordshore, England. The streak began in July with his victory at the British Open.

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