Protesters clashed with police in front of the Greek parliament in Athens, amid continuing anti-government demonstrations.
Clashes erupted between police and a group of demonstrators outside the Greek parliament in Athens on the sidelines of a protest by thousands of students and railway workers over a train accident in Greece, the deadliest in memory.
A small group of protesters hurled petrol bombs at police and set rubbish bins on fire on Sunday.
The police responded by firing tear gas and stun grenades, clearing Syntagma Square of protesters within a few minutes. Then the demonstrators dispersed to the nearby streets.
Police said 12,000 people had gathered near a large square in front of Parliament to demand accountability for the collision that occurred on Tuesday near the central city of Larissa, which sparked widespread anger.
At least 57 people were killed and dozens injured when a passenger train with more than 350 people on board collided with a freight train on the same track in central Greece.
After protests over the past three days across the country, some 10,000 students, railway workers and groups linked to left-wing parties gathered in Athens’ Syntagma Square to express sympathy for the lives lost and to demand better safety standards on the railway network.
“This crime will not be forgotten,” the demonstrators shouted as they launched black balloons into the sky. A banner read: “Their policies cost human lives.”
The train from Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki was packed with university students returning from a long weekend. The disaster caused an outpouring of outrage, as well as a heavy focus on safety standards.
Railway workers, who also lost colleagues in the accident, have staged periodic strikes since Wednesday to denounce cost-cutting and under-investment in railway infrastructure, a legacy of Greece’s debilitating debt crisis from 2010-2018.
The prime minister promises justice
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government blamed human error for the accident. However, Mitsotakis said on Sunday that human error should not deviate from the long-suffering responsibilities of the rail network.
“As prime minister, I owe everyone, but most relatives of the victims, an apology,” he wrote on Facebook. “Justice will very quickly investigate the tragedy and assign responsibilities.”
A station chief in the nearby city of Larissa who was working at the time of the accident this week has been charged with endangering lives and disrupting public transport.
The station chief, who cannot be named under Greek law, appeared before an investigative judge on Sunday after his lawyer requested extra time on Saturday to respond to the charges following new information regarding the case. And those procedures were under way.
Railway workers’ unions say safety systems throughout the railway network have been flawed for years as the remote monitoring and signaling system was not delivered on time. They called on the government to provide a timetable for implementing the safety protocols.
Mitsotakis said on Sunday that if there had been a remote system throughout the rail network “it would have been practically impossible for the accident to have occurred”.
Greece will announce action soon, he said, adding that Athens will seek expertise from the European Commission and other countries on improving railway safety.
On Sunday, Pope Francis said his thoughts are with the victims of the crash. In his weekly address to crowds in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, he said: “I pray for the dead, for I am close to the wounded and their relatives, and may the Blessed Virgin console them.”
Train and metro services were paralyzed by the strike.
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