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Prestige oil spill trial opens in Spain


Oil spilled from the single-hulled oil tanker Prestige washes up on the beach as the sun rises November 22, 2002 in Caion, Northern Spain. The tanker broke apart and sank off the coast of Spain, spilling an estimated 17,000 tons of oil into the sea and taking 60,000 tons to the bottom with it.


Marco Di Lauro

The Prestige oil spill, one of Europe's worst oil spills and the most devastating environmental disaster in Spain's history, is being brought before a court a decade after it ravaged the country's coast. 

The trial of the boat's former ship captain Apostolos Mangouras, two of the Prestige’s other officers, and the former director general of the Spanish merchant marine began in La Coruna on Tuesday, the New York Times reported

Mangouras, who is pleading not guilty, could face 12 years in prison if convicted of environmental crimes, CNN reported. 70 lawyers and 1,500 victims of the oil spill are seeking up to $5 million in damages, according to CNN. 

Over 100 witnesses will be testifying, the New York Times reported. 

The spill caused over 50,000 tons of oil to pour into the Atlantic and pollute Spain's northern coastline. Lawyers have been investigating the accident for eight years, and it has taken another two years to get to trial, BBC News reported

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However, many are calling for the politicians who were in power at the time of the dramatic oil spill, including current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, to stand in front of a judge as well. 

“It’s just incredible to see that Rajoy and other politicians who took all the wrong decisions have since managed to remain or even climb to the highest echelons of politics,” said Xosé Sánchez, the spokesperson for activist group Nunca Máis (Never Again), an organization that has been demanding that Rajoy and others be tried as well, the New York Times reported. 

Rajoy was deputy prime minister at the time of the spill, which happened November 13, 2002 after the Prestige was flooded by water and began to leak, Agence France Presse reported

Prime Minister at the time Jose Maria Aznar "ordered the tanker to be towed away from the Spanish coast instead of following an expert-prepared contingency plan that called for the ship to be brought closer to shore where the spill could be confined," according to AFP. 

A verdict is not expected to be reached until fall of next year, the New York Times reported. 

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