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Spain court acquits 3 individuals in 2002 oil spill

A Spanish court on Wednesday acquitted three individuals charged with sinking the Bahamas-flagged oil tanker Prestige 11 years ago, finding no criminal liability. The three-judge court determined [AP report] that the ship sank due to poor maintenance and repair rather than the action of the individuals. The named defendants were Captain Apostolos Mangouras, Chief Engineer Nikolaos Argyropoulos and the former head of Spain's Merchant Navy, Jose Luis Lopez. The court found that the ship had been ordered out to sea when problems within the ship arose after a storm in November 2002. The ship sank six days later, causing one of the worst environmental disasters by spilling most of its 20.5 million gallon of fuel oil into the sea. The court noted that the ship, despite its poor condition, had the necessary papers to sail. Although the defendants were acquitted of their criminal charges against the environment, the court found Mangouras guilty of disobeying authorities during the crisis and sentenced him to nine months.

In 2008, Spain sued the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) [advocacy website], a non-profit organization that inspects and certifies ships, for damages arising out of the 2002 spill. However, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] dismissed the case [JURIST report] reasoning that Spain, as a signatory of International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC) [text], was bound to pursue its claims under that convention in its own courts.

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