Matthaiopoulos, who was absent from court, was also ordered to pay €1,000 in court costs. He accepted the charge of attempted unlawful violence and issued an apology to Liotsios, stating: “I wish to state that I accept the accusation of attempted unlawful violence and express my sincere apology for the above act to Dimitris Liotsios and before the court.”

Despite his apology, Matthaiopoulos, through his legal counsel, denied the charge of dereliction of duty, citing legal reasons and arguing that he was not the head of the investigation, which was led by Liotsios under the direction of the Prosecutor’s Office.

“I received a direct threat”

Liotsios, in his testimony, detailed the intense pressure and threats he faced after being appointed as an expert witness. He recounted his initial inquiries into the environmental conditions and sources of the fire, which were met with resistance from Matthaiopoulos.

“The reactions were from Mr. Matthaiopoulos. When we happened to meet, he would say to me ‘What do you want from me? You’re going to get in trouble! Be careful not to get hurt. If you implicate the Forest Service, they will **** you'” Liotsios testified.

Liotsios also described a meeting where Matthaiopoulos pressured him to attribute the fire to external factors like wild construction and wind conditions, rather than negligence or procedural failures. Despite informing the Prosecutor’s Office and receiving further authorisation to continue his investigation, Liotsios said the pressure only intensified.

Direct threats and sabotage

Liotsios detailed an incident the day before he was to deliver his report on September 20, 2018. Matthaiopoulos called him to his office and threatened him, saying, “we will tear you apart” and “I have an order from above to tell you these things.”

The threats, according to Liotsios, began to materialise in March 2019. He reported sabotage to his motorcycle and later theft of the vehicle, with the dealership confirming that human interference had caused a loose nut.

Legal and political implications

This case underscores the contentious atmosphere surrounding the investigation of the Mati wildfire, which left 102 people dead and 250 injured, many of them children. Liotsios’s testimony and the subsequent legal actions highlight the challenges faced by officials attempting to conduct thorough and impartial investigations in the face of institutional pressures.

Prosecutor Laura Kovesi had previously commented on the barriers faced in the investigation of the Mati disaster, suggesting that systemic corruption was impeding the search for truth. She questioned, “How many tragedies like Mati do we need to understand that corruption kills?” This sentiment underscores the broader implications of the case, as it reflects ongoing struggles within the Greek legal and political systems to hold individuals accountable and ensure justice.

Witnesses and prosecutor’s proposal

Two witnesses, fire department officers, testified in court, corroborating Liotsios’s account of the threats. Additionally, a journalist who disclosed the conversation between Matthaiopoulos and Liotsios also testified.

In her proposal, the Public Prosecutor argued for the defendant’s guilt on both charges, urging the judges to dismiss Matthaiopoulos’s claims of legal overlap. “They are two different legal goods,” she explained. “Illegal violence is the threat suffered by the expert, while the breach of duty involves the pressure exerted on him to refrain from being appointed as an expert and to prepare the report as the accused wanted.”

The prosecutor concluded that Matthaiopoulos’s guilt was evident, especially given his own admission in court. The court adopted her proposal, finding him guilty.

Relatives of the victims were present in the courtroom and welcomed the judges’ decision with applause.


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