Officers jailed over misidentified 2003 crash victims

20th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Three Spanish officers where jailed for negligence after a 2003 scandal in which grieving families received the wrong bodies for burial.

Madrid – A Spanish court on Tuesday jailed three military officers for negligence over a 2003 scandal in which bereaved families received the wrong bodies for burial after a air crash that killed 62 soldiers.

The National Court, Spain's top criminal court, jailed General Vicente Navarro, for three years. He led the team responsible for the identification of the peacekeepers, who died as they flew home from peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan.

Commander Jose Ramirez and Captain Miguel Saez each received 18-month sentences each.

After the disaster, which was the worst airplane crash in the history of Spain's peacekeeping missions, many families discovered that they had been given the wrong bodies, which had to be exhumed for a correct identification.

The three defendants were found guilty of having falsified documents because they misidentified 30 of the 62 soldiers who died in the crash of their Yak-42 charter plane into a mountainous area in northeastern Turkey on 26 May, 2003.

The military had said that it had been able to positively identify the bodies through name tags sewn into the uniforms.

But family members complained that these had not been cross-checked with dental records, or DNA samples and no relative had made a visual identification.

As well as the soldiers, the 13-strong crew of Ukrainians and Belarussians who were bringing peacekeepers home from Afghanistan also died in the crash.

The sentences were lighter than those sought by prosecutors, who had asked for prison terms of five years for Navarro and of four and a half years for his two subordinates.

Prosecutors ruled out pursuing the defence minister in power at the time, Federico Trillo, rejecting accusations by some of the families of the dead that he had some responsibility for the affair.

The misidentification scandal hurt the popularity of the then conservative government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

AFP / Expatica

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