Page last updated at 14:32 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 15:32 UK

Spanish general jailed over crash

Spain's King Juan Carlos stands near the coffins of some of the victims at their state funeral (28 May 2003)
The misidentification of the victims' bodies caused public outrage in Spain

Spain's National Court has sentenced a general to three years in jail for the misidentification of 30 bodies after a plane crash in which 62 soldiers died.

Gen Vicente Navarro led a medical team which flew to Turkey in May 2003 to repatriate the troops killed when their Yak-42 transporter crashed in fog.

The court found he and two medics had rushed the identification process and wilfully falsified official documents.

The bodies had to be be exhumed months after a state funeral.

The crash, Spain's worst ever military accident, had already prompted widespread criticism of the government, as the army had chartered a Ukrainian plane to transport peacekeepers from Afghanistan.

Several Spanish soldiers had reportedly criticised the state of some of the chartered aircraft before the crash.

Thirteen Ukrainian and Belarussian crew members were also killed.

'Assigned randomly'

In their ruling on Tuesday, the three judges of the National High Court said they believed Gen Navarro had "consciously and willingly acted to conceal the truth".

Turkish rescue worker inspects the wreckage near Trabzon (26 May 2003)
Thick fog is said to have caused the crash near Trabzon in Turkey

Prosecutors said he and two other officers in the medical team, Maj Jose Ramirez and Capt Miguel Saez, had rushed the identification process as they were under pressure from Madrid to get the bodies home for a state funeral.

Gen Navarro, who signed official documents which stated that the 62 bodies had been identified, blamed Turkish coroners for the confusion, although he admitted that he might have "mixed up" some numbers.

Turkish forensic experts, however, testified that the Spanish medics had been aware that half of the bodies could not be identified because they were in such bad condition, and that DNA tests had not been performed.

The judges said Gen Navarro had deliberately drawn up an official list that made it look like all 62 sets of remains had been positively identified.

"In actual fact, in 30 cases the identities were assigned randomly," they added.

Maj Ramirez and Capt Saez were meanwhile convicted of being his accomplices and each sentenced to 18 months in prison by the court.

Gen Navarro was also fined 1,800 euros, while Maj Ramirez and Capt Saez were each fined 900 euros.

It is the first time the National Court has sentenced a general to jail.

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