Trial begins in the Galician regional high court against the officers and merchant shipping companies involved in the environmental disaster caused by the sinking of the oil tanker Prestige.
Releasing over 20 million US gallons of oil into the sea, this was the worst environmental disaster in Spanish and Portuguese history.
On November 13, 2002, rough weather conditions caused one of the twelve tanks on the Prestige to burst. Even though captain Apostolos Mangouras sought help from rescue workers, the authorities from Spain, France and Portugal all denied the tanker access to harbour on their coasts. A week later on November 19, the ship split in half and sank, 250km off the coast of Galicia. Oil leakage continued after the sinking, up to 125 tons a day.
The case has been brought forth by Nunca Máis, the civil platform set up in the wake of the disaster. The Spanish government, the ship's owners and the salvage companies involved are accused of inadequate preventive measures.
Among those facing charges are the ship's captain, his chief engineer and the first-mate. All are accused of environmental crimes and civil disobedience.
This macro-trial is expected to last 7 months, bringing together 3 magistrates, 51 lawyers, 2128 plaintiffs and 133 witnesses.
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