An Egyptian MP has called for negligent employees to face the death penalty, after six men were detained for a further 15 days pending investigation as to their involvement in the train accident at Ramses Station, the Egypt Independent has reported.
At least 25 people were killed and dozens more injured after a blaze was triggered by a high speed train colliding with a concrete buffer stop at Ramses Station in downtown Cairo last week. The train’s fuel tank reportedly exploded after the crash, setting a platform and nearby buildings on fire.
Six men, including two train drivers, were detained for four days following the incident, facing accusations of murder and negligence. According to initial investigations, one of the drivers left the train to talk to the other without pulling the handbrake to stop the train, which was moving at a high speed towards the buffer stop.
The drivers have allegedly admitted to being responsible for the crash.
Following the incident, Egyptian MP Sherif Fakhry announced that he had formally submitted a proposal to the parliament to modify the Egyptian penal code such that negligent employees could face the death penalty.
According to Article No. 238 in the Egyptian penal code, anyone who unintentionally kills a person due to carelessness faces up to ten years in jail and a fine of 200 Egyptian Pounds ($11.4). However Fakhry argued that the train accident showed that stronger sentencing of either the death penalty or a life sentence, was needed to act as a significant deterrent for others.
Egypt’s frequent use of the death penalty has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after nine men accused of plotting the assassination of the country’s attorney general in 2015 were executed, warranting international condemnation.
Cairo executed six other men in two separate cases last month that were also denounced by rights groups as unjust. Some 1,400 people have been sentenced to death since 2013, convicted mostly of incidents of political violence.
Amnesty International has called for Egypt to abolish the death penalty altogether and allow those sentenced to death to appeal in cases where evidence has not been considered.
Following the accident, the Minister of Transportation Hesham Arafat resigned, having formed a technical committee to investigate the allegations of negligence.
Fatal train crashes and accidents have been frequent occurrence in Egypt for the past two decades. Observers attribute such crashes to old equipment, poor maintenance and inefficient government regulation.
Last week’s incident came almost exactly a year after a collision between two trains in the northern province of Beheira left 15 people dead and a further 16 injured.