[QODLink]
Europe

Spanish court acquits oil spill defendants

Judge says defendants not to blame for 2002 disaster that killed up to 230,000 birds and polluted 1,137 beaches.

Last updated: 13 Nov 2013 17:07
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

A Spanish court has acquitted all three people charged in the sinking of the Prestige oil tanker off Spain's northwestern coast 11 years ago, which triggered a major environmental catastrophe.

Judge Juan Luis Pia said on Wednesday that the court found no criminal responsibility in the sinking and absolved the three defendants, the ship's Greek captain, his first officer and the former director-general of Spain's Merchant Marine, of crimes against the environment.

The 78-year old captain was found guilty of disobeying authorities during the crisis by resisting attempts to tow the wreck away from shore before it spilled its load, however, and was sentenced to nine months in prison.

The sentence shows that in Spain we are not ready to judge an environmental catastrophe, neither to condemn it nor to defend the environment

Maria Jose Caballero, Spain Greenpeace campaign director

Due to his age, however, Captain Apostolos Mangouras will not go behind bars.

Eleven years to the day after the Prestige made its first distress call, the court ruled that the Spanish maritime chief who ordered the ship out to sea was not to blame for the vast oil slick that followed, nor was Greek chief engineer Nikolaos Argyropoulos, who declared the ship seaworthy despite having structural damage.

The 26-year-old ship ran into problems during a storm on November 13, 2002. It was ordered out to sea and sank six days later.

Judge Pia said in his ruling that Mangouras and "the crew of the Prestige should be absolved" of the charges of environmental crimes since they did not act intentionally nor with serious negligence.

Verdict condemned

Environmental groups and victims of the oil spill voiced anger at the outcome of the trial.

"The sentence shows that in Spain we are not ready to judge an environmental catastrophe, neither to condemn it nor to defend the environment," said Greenpeace's campaigns director in Spain, Maria Jose Caballero.

The ruling "is truly disappointing", said a spokesman for Nunc Mais, a grouping of victims of the disaster, Xaquin Rubido.

"It does not do justice to the conduct of Galician society and the thousands of volunteers who came out here to clean up our coast."

When it broke in two after six days damaged and adrift, the Prestige spilled 63,000 tonnes of fuel oil into the sea, coating beaches in Spain, France and Portugal. The disaster prompted 300,000 volunteers to come out to clean the beaches.

Wednesday's ruling cited new estimates for the scale of the damage: 1,137 beaches and 2,980km of shoreline polluted and between 115,000 and 230,000 seabirds killed.

442

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
The new military government has issued warnings that it will soon start to clampdown on immigration offenders.
As Snowden awaits Russian visa renewal, the world mulls role of NSA and expects more revelations from document trove.
A handful of agencies that provide tours to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea say business is growing.
A political power struggle masquerading as religious strife grips Nigeria - with mixed-faith couples paying the price.
The current surge in undocumented child migrants from Central America has galvanized US anti-immigration groups.
join our mailing list