September 14, 2022 By The Associated Press
PARIS (AP) — A French court was expected to issue a verdict Wednesday in the trial of the Yemeni airline that operated a passenger plane that crashed into the Indian Ocean in 2009, killing 152 people.
The Yemenia flight departed from Paris, picked up more passengers in the southern French city of Marseille and made a stopover in Sanaa, Yemen, where 142 passengers and 11 crew members boarded another plane to continue to Moroni, the Comoros capital.
During the landing in strong winds, the aging Airbus A310 crashed about 15 kilometers (9 miles) off the Comorian coast on June 30, 2009.
Yemenia, which is the flagship carrier of Yemen, has been charged in the Paris court with “manslaughter and unintentional injuries” in the civil case, and faces a fine of up to 225,000 euros ($237,000). The company has denied responsibility.
Most of the passengers onboard were from Comoros. Yemenia was tried in Paris over the injuries of the crash’s only survivor, who was 12 years old at the time, and the deaths of 65 French citizens.
The survivor, Bahia Bakari, clung to floating debris from the plane for 11 hours in the sea before being rescued. She suffered a broken collarbone, a broken hip, burns and other injuries, and her mother died in the crash.
Now 25, Bakari gave powerful testimony in a packed courtroom in May, earning praise for her bravery from judges and lawyers.
Other witnesses slammed what they claimed was the poor state of air travel from Yemen, which has since been embroiled in a brutal civil war. Some claimed Yemenia was more interested in profits than in taking care of its passengers.
A lawyer for the victims’ families, Said Larifou, denounced the operation of passenger plans that he claimed were “flying coffins.”
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 procedure between France and the Comoros, a former colony that became independent in 1975.
The airline in 2018 signed a confidential agreement with 835 beneficiaries, who had to wait several more years to receive compensation.
No representatives of the company attended the Paris trial. Bakari deplored the absence and said she wished the company would apologize.
Despite the pain of reliving the memories, she said she felt relieved to have a trial, even so many years later.