Spanish air controllers sued for 50 mln euros

3rd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Passengers hit by a 24-hour wildcat strike by Spanish air traffic controllers announced Thursday they had sued for 50 million euros ($70 million) in damages.

An association of 5,000 passengers said it had filed suit in a Madrid court against controllers who called in sick en masse December 3, disrupting travel for more than 200,000 people on a holiday weekend.

Spain's government forced the controllers to return to work the following day by declaring a state of alert, putting the military in command and threatening jail for those who refused.

It was the first state of alert in Spain since the 1975 death of dictator General Francisco Franco.

"In the civil action, we are requesting the opening of a civil suit to claim 10,000 euros in moral damages and financial losses for each person," the association said in a statement.

"The closure of airspace affected thousands of people who were hostage to the situation in national and international planes and airports, causing major losses to the tourism sector and damaging the image of Spain," it said.

According to the association's legal counsel, Cremades & Calvo-Sotelo, thousands more people were expected to join the action.

Spanish prosecutors are already investigating air traffic controllers for possible sedition charges for abandoning their posts.

If the controllers were found guilty and unable to pay the claimed damages, the claimants ' association said Spain's airport authority AENA should be held accountable.

© 2011 AFP

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