CAIRO (AFP) -Saudi authorities handed over to Egypt the manager of the company that owns the Egyptian ferry which sank in February, killing about 1,000 people, airport sources told AFP.
“Egypt was handed Mamduh Orabi, the manager of the company that owns Al-Salam 98 by Saudi authorities after he was arrested a few days ago at Egypt’s request,” the source said.
Orabi, who arrived under heavy security aboard a Saudi Airlines flight early Friday, was immediately taken in for questioning, the source said.
He had been arrested a few days earlier in Riyadh on an Egypt warrant. His whereabouts had previously been unknown.
The Al-Salam Boccaccio 98 sank in the middle of the Red Sea on February 3 as it was carrying more than 1,400 people from Saudi Arabia to the Egyptian port of Safaga.
Orabi was one of six defendants absent when the trial over the disaster opened in Egypt last week.
The main defendant is Mamduh Ismail, owner of Al-Salam, which operated the 36-year-old ferry. He already faces an Interpol arrest notice after he left for Britain following the sinking — the deadliest disaster in Egyptian maritime history.
In April, a parliamentary commission of inquiry blamed Al-Salam for the disaster, saying the firm continued to operate the ferry “despite serious defects” in the vessel.
It also said the government “failed to manage the crisis adequately” in the days after the sinking.
Ismail has denied responsibility for the disaster, and accused the captain of the Al-Salam 98, who went down with his ship, of overestimating the crew’s ability to fight a fire that broke out on board.
The passengers on the ferry were mostly Egyptian migrant workers, some of whom were bringing months’, if not years’, worth of savings to their families back home.