The defence said that there is not a shred of evidence to prove the driver guilty.
Rabat – Five months after a deadly train accident in Bouknadel, north of Rabat, the Court of First Instance in Sale has adjourned the trial of the train driver, Laarbi Rich. The trial will resume on March 26.
After the train he was driving derailed near Bouknadel, between Rabat and Kenitra, on October 16, 2018, killing seven and injuring 150, the train driver was placed under police detention. Rich has been in detention for five months now.
The Sale court adjourned the case on Tuesday, March 19. “I told what I’d seen,” the defendant said at yesterday’s hearing.
The public prosecutor charged Rich with murder, accidental injuries, and causing the train to derail by driving 158 kilometers per hour. The speed limit on that particular stretch of track was 60 kilometers per hour at the time.
Rich’s defence said there was no evidence to convict him, and Rich may sue the government. “We reserve the right to bring an action against the state to recompense the defendant for the time he’s spent in jail.”
The defence instead blamed staff at the National Office of Railways (ONCF) for not communicating with the driver. They also said the train did not have automatic braking, and the driver did not have a display screen.
Referring to videos allegedly deleted by ONCF staff in violation of Article 58 of the criminal procedure code, Rich’s lawyers said some evidence was corrupted.
If convicted, Rich faces between five months and five years in prison and a fine of MAD 250 to to 1,000, as stipulated by Acts 432 and 433 of the criminal code.
The defence also cast doubt on the credibility of witnesses. “They would risk their jobs for clearing the driver of guilt.”
The accident stirred wide public outrage on social media, where users blamed the accident on ONCF. A ONCF employee claimed the state-owned rail company was well aware of the malfunctioning of the track days before the accident.
They launched an online campaign under hashtags “#Baraka” (enough is enough) and “#Boycott_ONCF” to express their disapproval.