CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian court Monday sentenced a train engineer to 15 years in prison for his conviction on charges of manslaughter and damaging public property stemming from a deadly locomotive crash last year at the Egyptian capital’s main train station.
An argument between engineers Emad Fathy and Ayman el-Shahat led to the unleashing of a speeding, unmanned locomotive that slammed into a barrier and exploded in Cairo's busy Ramses station last February, killing 31 people and injuring 17.
Besides sentencing Fathy to 15 years, the Cairo criminal court fined him about $570,000 for the damage caused by the crash. The court sentenced el-Shahat to 10 years. The sentences can be appealed.
The crash sparked public outrage at the time and prompted then-Transportation Minister Hisham Arafat to resign. President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi appointed a military officer to lead the ministry.
According to investigations, the locomotive was left unattended after Fathy got into an argument with el-Shahat and left the controls without applying the brakes. The engine began moving down the track, picking up a speed of 120 kph (75 mph) before slamming into a barrier and exploding.
Egypt's railway system has a history of badly maintained equipment and poor management. The latest official figures show that over 2,000 train accidents took place across the country in 2018.
The country's deadliest train crash took place in 2002 when over 300 people were killed when fire erupted in speeding train traveling from Cairo to southern Egypt.
Also on Monday, a military court in Cairo sentenced 41 people to life in prison on terror-related charges, rights lawyer Khaled el-Masry said. The military sentenced 98 others to prison terms ranging from three to 15 years. It acquitted 50.
The court convicted the defendants of joining a militant group known as Hasm, which has links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Egypt, where it is considered a terrorist organization. Hasm has targeted mainly Egyptian security forces in bombings and drive-by shootings.
The 41 were also accused of carrying out several militant attacks, including one that killed a senior Egyptian army officer and the attempted assassination of the country’s former mufti, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, and a deputy public prosecutor in 2016.
The verdicts can be appealed, el-Masry said.
Human rights observers have repeatedly criticized such mass sentencings in Egypt and called on authorities to ensure fair trials.
Egypt has for years been battling a long-running insurgency centered in North Sinai that is now led by an Islamic State group affiliate. The insurgency gained strength following the 2013 military overthrow of a freely elected Muslim Brotherhood president amid massive protests against his divisive rule.
Since then, the government has granted police forces and courts sweeping powers in response to Islamic militant attacks. Egyptian authorities have held mass trials and sentenced hundreds of people to death.