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Comoros 2009 plane crash: French court awards damages to victims' families

A Yemen Airways plane lands at the Sanaa international airport in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, May, 16, 2022   -  
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Hani Mohammed/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


On Wednesday, Yemenia Airways was found guilty of involuntary homicide over the 2009 crash off the Comoros islands which killed 152 passengers on board. A French court ordered the Yemeni airline to pay a 230,000$ fine to the families of 65 French citizens who died and the flight's lone survivor. Bahia Bakari welcomed the decision. The company’s lawyers said they would appeal.

"It's not a burden because it's something that is with me every day and the court's decision is not going to change my story, Bakari said. It's something that has impacted me, that will impact me all my life. It's just a relief because I never said openly that I thought the company was guilty, I was waiting for the court's decision. For me (today's verdict), it is just a relief."

The company had been charged with "manslaughter and unintentional injuries" but denied responsibility. 

"We have taken note of the (court's) decision who said 'Yemania Airways was guilty of recklessness,' that's the term used by the tribunal, Lawyer Leon Lef Forster insisted.  We will not comment this decision today. What I can tell you is that an appeal will be filed, and we will carefully examine (today's) decision."

"Aircraft poor condition"

The prosecutors said the aircraft did not have functional landing lights. Officials from Yemen previously said the plane had undergone a thorough inspection and conformed to international standards.

It is not clear what the current findings of the French court were with respect to the cause of the crash, as the AFP news agency reports experts told the court there was nothing wrong with the aircraft.

In 2015, two French courts that oversaw civil proceedings ordered Yemenia to pay more than 30 million euros ($31.6 million) to the victims' families, who deplored the slowness of the proceedings between France and the Comoros, a former colony that became independent in 1975. The crash caused anger amongst the Comorian community in France as people complained that the aircraft had been in poor condition.

The airline in 2018 signed a confidential agreement with 835 beneficiaries, who had to wait several more years to receive compensation.

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