Bahrain shipping accident
Both the owner and the captain of the Al Dana dhow, which capsized on March 30 killing 58 passengers (the Bahrain shipping disaster), have pleaded not guilty to criminal charges. Lawyers acting for the Defendants have also accused the Public Prosecution of unfairly singling out their clients.
The urgent trial of the dhows captain, Mr Rajendrea-kumar Ramjibhai, and the owner Mr Abdulla Al Kobaisi opened in Bahrain's Lower Criminal Court yesterday, following completion of a technical report into the accident which happened during a corporate party. The pair face serious criminal charges arising from the deaths of 58 passengers. The legal team representing the two claim that others who allegedly were responsible for the boat disaster are going unpunished.
The defence team argued that others who were to blame included the local Coast Guard, the company which hired the dhow and a British passenger who persuaded the Captain to set sail.
It is alleged that lives could have been saved if the Bahrain Coast Guard had reacted sooner when the dhow capsized “ and this delay was partly responsible for the huge loss of life.
The defence also argued that the company that hired the dhow on the night of the Bahrain boat disaster breached their contract by increasing the number of passengers allowed onboard.
In addition, the defence claimed a British passenger forced the Indian Captain to take the dhow to sea although the captain refused to do so because he said it was too risky.
"There are many other defendants who have a hand in this case, but the Public Prosecution has levelled charges against these (two) defendants only," said defence lawyer Abdulrahman Gunaim yesterday during the opening of the trial.
However, the Public Prosecutor Wael Bouallay argued that the owner and captain were responsible for the accident and called for the severest punishment of the Defendants. If convicted likely sentences could include imprisonment and fines.
Bahrain shipping disaster solicitor comments
Commenting on yesterdays hearing, Clive Garner, Head of The International Travel Litigation Group at Irwin Mitchell, representing families who lost loved ones in the tragedy said, "Questions do need to be answered by those who organised this event.
"Lawyers for Al Kobaisi and his co-defendant have raised legitimate issues about the use of the dhow for an event of this kind. We have a number of serious concerns surrounding the selection and use of the dhow including the experience and inadequate qualifications of the dhows captain and what are alleged to be important technical breaches. These include exceeding the dhows safe passenger carrying capacity and breaching its license for use as a floating restaurant.
"If there are others who should be held accountable then we would support any moves to see them brought to trial and for there to be justice for the many people who died and their loved ones."
The hearing was adjourned until July 1 to give the defence team time to prepare its case.
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