Greek minister resigns after ferry passenger death

AFP , Monday 11 Sep 2023

Greece's merchant marine minister said on Monday he had resigned over the death of a late ferry passenger who was forcefully pushed into the sea last week.

Miltiadis Varvitsiotis
Greece s merchant marine minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis. AFP


Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis had sparked outrage by appearing to express sympathy for the crew members accused of pushing him, in televised comments the main opposition party described as "inhumane".

A video that went viral on social media showed 36-year-old Antonis Kargiotis running onto the loading ramp of the ferry in Athens port on Tuesday and crew members stopping him and pushing him back three times.

Kargiotis fell into the sea, and despite passengers screaming that he was in the water, the ferry left as initially scheduled. His body was eventually recovered from the water.

The ferry captain and three crew members face criminal charges over Kargiotis's death.

In a first statement on television channel Open on Wednesday, the minister said: "There are those who mourn the victim and those who mourn the people who work for a wage... and are now accused of murder".

Opposition parties including left-wing Syriza condemned the remarks.

Under pressure, the minister withdrew his comments later on Wednesday, saying: "I apologise if I unintentionally misspoke".

He then wrote on social media that "Antonis and his family are the main victims of this tragedy".

In his resignation letter, posted online, he said "the murder of Antonis Kargiotis by members of the Blue Horizon (ferry) crew shocked us all".

A government spokesman said the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had accepted the resignation of Varvitsiotis, 54, who is also an MP for the ruling right-wing New Democracy party.

He will be replaced by Christos Stylianidis, an MP and former minister, the government said.

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