Page last updated at 13:21 GMT, Sunday, 27 July 2008 14:21 UK

Anger at Egyptian ferry verdict

Angry relative after the court case
Relatives of the victims reacted with anger and dismay at the verdicts

There have been angry scenes at a court in Egypt after a ferry-owner was cleared of all charges over a 2006 sinking in which more than 1,000 died.

Relatives of the victims scuffled with security forces while others denounced the judges and defendants.

The ferry's owner, a rich businessman close to Egypt's political elite, and four others were acquitted.

A captain of another ship was found guilty of failing to help the stricken ferry and was jailed for six months.

"We are stunned. There can't be a ruling like this," said Asaad Heikal, a lawyer for several victims' families.

"We will not give up and will appeal the ruling," he told reporters outside the Cairo courthouse on Sunday.

'This is awful'

Dozens of relatives, many carrying photographs of their dead loved ones, were crammed into the court building, despite a heavy security presence.

The al-Salam Boccaccio (undated photo)
More than 1,000 people died when the ferry sank in February

One man told al-Jazeera TV: "The day of the accident everybody saw that the ship was in bad shape and two years later they say the boat was in good shape. It doesn't make sense.

"This is awful. My wife and children died and after two years everyone responsible is found to be innocent."

The sinking of the al-Salam was Egypt's worst maritime disaster.

A fire broke out in its vehicle bay. Most of the victims were Egyptian workers returning home.

A parliamentary inquiry blamed the ferry company for the disaster, saying it had continued to operate the boat despite serious defects.

The vessel's owner, Mamdouh Ismail, is a member of parliament's upper house, and his son Amr was a top executive in the ferry company.

They fled Egypt after the disaster and reports have claimed that senior Egyptian officials helped them escape.

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