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Trial Opens for Montenegro Train Crash

October 23, 2006

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) _ The trial of 11 suspects accused in Montenegro’s deadliest train crash opened Monday, but hearings were postponed for a week after two of the accused failed to show up in court.

The Jan. 23 accident outside the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica, near the village of Bioce, claimed the lives of 47 passengers and injured more than 200 people.

The train was carrying 300 people, including many children returning home from a skiing holiday, when it derailed and plunged into a river canyon.

The crash also was one of the deadliest train accidents in Europe in the past 30 years.

Railway authorities accused the engine driver, Slobodan Drobnjak, of failing to lock the train brakes, which allegedly caused the train to speed up uncontrollably.

Drobnjak was indicted for grievous endangerment of public transport safety and faces a maximum sentence of eight years.

The remaining suspects _ officials and employees of the Montenegrin Railroad _ face up to three years for ``endangering human life and property on a large scale.″

After two lesser suspects did not appear in court Monday, the judge ordered they be detained and brought for trial.

During pretrial proceedings, all of the suspects claimed they were innocent. An independent investigation into the crash has shown the train was malfunctioning badly and should not have been in use.

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