Two former secretaries present in the courtroomWednesday, March 19, 2014
Families demand ‘justice’ at Once trial
On the first day of the long-awaited trial, former Transport secretaries Ricardo Jaime and Juan Pablo Schiavi appeared before Federal Criminal Oral Court Number 2 presided over by judges Jorge Tassara, Jorge Gorini and Rodrigo Giménez Uriburu.
Also present were the owners of former concessionaire Trenes de Buenos Aires (TBA), Sergio and Marcos Cirigliano, the train engine driver on that fateful day Marcos Córdoba, and the 24 other defendants, mostly officials from the Transport Secretariat, the National Commission for Transport Regulation (CNRT) and TBA.
Córdoba — who yesterday squeezed himself between the relatives of the 51 victims who were waiting to enter the courtroom — faces charges of unintentional derailment. The business leaders and the Kirchnerite officials face the same allegation but also face the additional charge of fraud.
Even though the first hearing of the trial was scheduled to begin at 11am, the relatives of the 51 victims of the February 22, 2012 train crash made their presence felt from early in the morning, making it clear they weren’t just waiting for a legal proceeding, but for justice for their loved ones.
With the faces of loved ones printed on their T-shirts and carrying signs, the family members queued, seemingly not willing to risk being left out of the courtroom. Some cried, others hugged — expressions of a tragedy whose victims have yet to heal.
The courtrooms were packed with relatives but some waited outside the building, waving flags and banners.
“We want exemplary sentences. We want justice regardless of who the defendants are,” María Luján Rey told the press yesterday, while others around her sobbed, remembering that infamous morning of February 22.
RIGHT ON TIME
The defendants entered the courtroom right on time. Schiavi and Jaime were the most sought-after by journalists but Schiavi was the only one who spoke, telling reporters as he entered the Comodoro Py central courthouse that he would be present at every single hearing. Jaime dodged the cameras.
In the courtroom, Jaime sat next to his successor, who shook his hands nervously upon arrival.
Behind them, relatives held up signs that had one word: justice. But none of the 29 defendants looked back.
Judge Tassara was in charge of kicking off the proceedings and a court employee read read part of the indictment issued by investigative prosecutor Federico Delgado.
According to Delgado, the accident took place because the train was in a disastrous state and because licensee TBA — then run by the Cirigliano brothers — diverted the funding that had been provided by the state. But the prosecutors also made it clear that TBA owners were able to divert the funding due to the acquiescence of those who had to oversee them — the CNRT and the Transport Secretariat.
Delgado provided a series of recordings in his writ that purportedly prove how the motormen told their supervisors that the brakes were not working well, which could be seen as evidence that what happened at the “Chapa 16” train was a real possibility.
“They decided to prioritize business instead of providing a service,” the investigative prosecutor wrote in his 2013 indictment addressed to Judge Claudio Bonadío, who had the investigation in his hands.
During the trial, prosecutor Oscar Fernando Arrigo will be in charge of the prosecution along with assistant prosecutors Estela Fabiana León and Stella Maris Scandura, who were appointed by Attorney-General Alejandra Gils Carbó on Monday.
The plaintiffs will be divided in three groups represented by lawyers Gregorio Dalbón, Javier Moral and Leonardo Menghini, who is the uncle of the last victim to be found, Lucas Menghini Rey.
During yesterday’s proceedings, the judges made reference to the news that came hours before the start of the trial: a group of victims and their relatives had reached a compensation agreement with TBA. The extrajudicial accord forces families to pull out from the criminal proceeding and not reveal the amount received from the Cirigliano group.
The compensation deal jolted the rest of the plaintiffs who were yesterday at the trial. Though lawyer Dalbón and several of the relatives tried to play down the emotional impact, many of them made reference to that accord. “They can’t buy us out,” María Luján Rey yesterday wrote in her Twitter account.
None of the 29 defendants is currently in detention and the only one who came close was Jaime, who faces dozens of corruption allegations. In July, 2013, Judge Bonadío ordered Jaime’s detention but the former Kirchnerite official fled and a prosecutor issued an arrest warrant with Interpol.
Jaime and Schiavi are not the only officials to be sitting on the dock. Former Transport under-secretary Antonio Guillermo Luna will be cross-examined in this proceeding. Luna, a long-time member of La Fraternidad motormen union, took office in 2006 but Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo asked him to resign in 2012. Luna had been suspected of being linked to Workers Party (PO) activist Mario Ferreyra’s murder in 2010.