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Seven convicted for 2005 ATR crash


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(ANSA) - Palermo, March 23 - Seven people were convicted here on Monday for their responsibility in the August 2005 crash of a Tunisian Tuninter ATR 72 airliner off the Sicilian coast which cost the lives of 16 people.

 

The judge, who acquitted two defendants, also handed down sentences totalling 62 years All nine defendants were Tunisian and included the plane's pilot and co-pilot and Tuninter top brass, all of whom were accused of multiple manslaughter and causing a disaster.

 

''This was an unprecedented sentence but we have always maintained that it was an unprecedented incident,'' observed Niky Persico, a lawyer for one of the victims.

 

''Never before in the history of aviation disasters has there been such a chain of events and counter events,'' the lawyer added.

 

Pilot Chafik Gharby and copilot Ali Kebaier each received 10-year sentences.

 

Tuninter Director General Moncef Zouari and technical chief Zoueir Chetouane were sentenced to nine years while eight-year sentences were handed down to the budget airline's head of maintenance, Zouehir Siala, chief mechanic Chaed Nebil and maintenance squad leader Rhouma Bel Haj.

 

Two members of the airline maintenance crew were acquitted.

 

None of the defendants were in court for the sentencing and a lawyer for Tuninter said they will appeal Monday's sentence.

 

''Trials like these are always difficult. We did our job but in cases like this the atmosphere in court can play a big role,'' the lawyer observed.

 

Tuninter ATR-72 was on a flight from the southeastern Italian city of Bari to the Tunisian resort island of Djerba when both its engines cut off as it approached Sicily on August 6, 2005.

 

The plane was carrying 34 holidaymakers and a crew of five and thanks to the ability of the pilot the plane made a crash landing in the sea which allowed 23 people to survive.

 

Italy's national agency for air transport safety (ANSV) concluded in September 2007 that the ATR 72 crashed because the twin-engine turboprop aircraft did not take on sufficient fuel before leaving Bari because of a faulty fuel gage.

 

Prosecutors in Palermo, who carried out a parallel probe into the crash, from the start suspected that the plane had run out of fuel.

 

According to the ANSV report, the day before the August 6 crash the fuel gage was replaced in Tunisia with one designed for an ATR-42 model, which is similar to the ATR-72 but has smaller fuel tanks.

 

The same conclusions were reached by the aircraft's Italo-French manufacturer.

 

fonte: http://www.ansa.it/site/notizie/awnplus/en..._123334927.html

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