An Italian court, ruling according to full and complete jurisdiction procedure, handed down in absentia long prison sentences on almost the whole Tuninter company , subsidiary of Tunisair whose airliner crashed off Sicily in August 2005.
In a press release, “the company [Tuninter] expresses its astonishment and strong dissatisfaction after the surprising decision of Palermo court whose decision raises the following observations:
1. The Italian court has ruled the case according to full and complete jurisdiction procedure while the international experts had stated that the crash-land took place in international waters.
2. A 22 million euro compensation has been paid to survivors and victims families in record time (less than a year). This compensation was paid by the insurers of the company Tuninter and manufacturer of the airliner (ATR).
3. Sentences are significantly heavier than those decided in Italy in more severe accidents.
4. Paradoxically, the commander of the aircraft, who had been recognized as a hero ‘by the press, by the Pilots Association and the public opinion in Italy, was sentenced to prison even though he carried out an extraordinary successful landing saving the lives of two thirds of the passengers.
5. It was shown by Italian experts internationally recognized that the accident was largely due to technical shortcomings of the aircraft. Therefore, attempts to involve managers or technical managers of Tuninter company are hardly justifiable.
6. The media and political turn taken by the case is to be deplored as well as the pressures that seem to be exerted by certain parties seeking to hide the responsibility assumed undoubtedly by other parties including the Italian-French manufacturer of the aircraft .
7. Tuninter company has instructed its lawyers to appeal the verdict.
Italy slammed by the international pilots’ association
For its part, the international pilots’ association on Wednesday denounced the long prison sentences given to the pilot and co-pilot of Tuninter airliner.
“Once again the compulsion to apportion blame has outweighed the greater need to improve the safety of air transport,” said a statement released by the London-based International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations.
The federation said the flight crew reacted to the loss of power in a textbook fashion and completed a successful ditching at sea. Under international accident investigation rules such circumstances would not be grounds for a criminal prosecution.
Italy has been criticized in the past for its stance on accident related prosecutions and “this case provides another example of this policy,” said Gideon Ewers, the group’s spokesman.
The pilots’ federation “calls on the Italian Government to act now to amend the laws which continue to have a detrimental effect on air safety, and in doing so improve the safety of the travelling public,” he said.