Zapatero urges Trillo to accept Yak-42 verdict

30th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

1 June 2005, MADRID — Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said former defence minister Federico Trillo should face up to his responsibility for the country's worst peacetime air crash.

1 June 2005

MADRID — Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said former defence minister Federico Trillo should face up to his responsibility for the country's worst peacetime air crash.

Trillo was reprimanded by the Spanish parliament for negligence in connection with the deaths of 62 of the country's soldiers in a 2003 plane crash.

Now an opposition deputy, Trillo said in his own defence that an administration could not be blamed for the soldiers' deaths.

But Zapatero urged Trillo to face up to his responsibilities over the scandal.

The relatives of the dead have called for the ex-minister to renounce his parliamentary seat and the government salary that comes with it.

The resolution was approved with the votes of the ruling Socialists and their leftist allies along with Basque and Catalan nationalist parties.

Voting against it were members of Trillo's conservative Popular Party (PP), now the main opposition.

The accident, the worst tragedy of its kind ever suffered by the Spanish army, in which the Yakolev-42's 12-person Ukrainian crew also perished, occurred on 26 May 2003 in Turkey.

The Spanish defence ministry in Madrid had leased the aircraft to bring the soldiers home from peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan.

The parliamentary resolution said that the military did not bear exclusive responsibility "for the serious negligence found in the monitoring and control of the plane's contracting and the tragic flight, (or for) important errors in the process of identifying the bodies, during which a clear and constant contempt for the relatives was exhibited".

These failures "directly affect the political authorities and, in particular, (former) defence minister Federico Trillo, who ... directed the military operation".

PP spokesman Manuel Atencia said that the resolution was a political move.

After stating that the accident was due to pilot error, as the international crash investigation commission concluded, Atencia said that Trillo "had nothing to do" with the flight contract, which was the responsibility of the armed forces general staff.

Trillo, who unexpectedly appeared on his own for almost an hour before the lower house's defence committee, said that he would not be made a "scapegoat," adding that then-prime minister Jose Maria Aznar did not accept his resignation two days after the crash.

The ex-minister said that on the day of the accident the person responsible for the support flights to and from Afghanistan was the chief of air force operations in the Middle East, Carlos Gomez Arruche, who now heads Spain's militarized national police force.

As soon as he left the committee chamber, Trillo was besieged by several representatives of the accident victims, who approached him and demanded his resignation as the politician bearing responsibility for the soldiers' deaths.

The dead soldiers' relatives have been demanding accountability not only for the events leading up to the crash, but also for the mistakes in identifying the bodies.

At least 22 of the 62 Spanish soldiers killed in the accident were misidentified, according to DNA tests of the victims' relatives released last year, which showed that only 17 of the initial identifications were correct.

In testimony to parliament a year ago, current defence minister Jose Bono said that a "measly saving" of less than EUR 6,000 inspired the switch to a Yakovlev-42 from the Tupolev that was initially scheduled to transport the 62 Spanish soldiers home from Afghanistan.

Bono said the Yak-42 had two serious defects - the cabin's intercom system and fuel censor had been malfunctioning for a month - and the crew had been on duty for more than 23 hours at the time of the flight.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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