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French trial sought for airline chief over 2004 Egypt crash

French prosecutors have requested that the former chief of Egypt’s Flash Airlines stand trial over a 2004 crash off the Sinai Peninsula that killed 148 people, a judicial source said Wednesday. The chartered Boeing 737 plunged into the Red Sea on January 3, 2004, just minutes after take-off from the coastal resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, with all on board perishing, including 134 French citizens. The families of the victims have demanded that Mohamed Nour, managing director of the low-cost airline at the time, face trial. The Egyptian national, now 70, was charged with involuntary manslaughter in late 2021 following years of investigation, having initially appeared before a judge only as an official witness. An expert report from 2009 found that the pilots aboard were inadequately trained and suffering from fatigue because of their intense working hours in the weeks leading up to the accident. France’s aviation authority, the BEA, also determined that the pilot had suffered “spatial disorientation” before the crash, meaning he was unable to properly assess the plane’s speed or altitude. That led prosecutors to drop the case in 2016, saying a trial was unnecessary as the pilots were among the dead. The move infuriated many victims’ families, who in 2019 secured a reopening of the investigation with a Paris appeals court. Prosecutors made their formal request for a Nour’s trial on December 22, the judicial source said. While the pilots’ shortcomings were “the direct cause” of the crash, prosecutors also blame the airline itself for failing to train them properly and to create adequate working conditions, according to their request document seen by AFP on Wednesday. The airline has since been wound up, but Nour can be prosecuted as the carrier’s former legal representative, according to prosecutors. Two investigating magistrates will now rule on the trial request.

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