France to appeal Prestige disaster ruling

French government hoping to demonstrate criminal damage to establish civil liability

The French government announced Friday that it plans to appeal a decision by a Galician court to reprieve all of those accused of causing environmental damage in the Prestige tanker disaster, which caused a mammoth oil spill in November 2002.

According to a joint statement released by the French Justice and Economy ministries, the government intends to demonstrate to the Spanish Supreme Court the "existence of a criminal offense against the environment as a result of acts committed by the captain and the crew" of the Prestige, which broke in half and sunk off the coast of Spain spilling some 63,000 tons of crude that severely polluted not only the Spanish coastline but also parts of France and Portugal. Around 250 towns on the French Atlantic coast were affected.

The French government said it is hoping to demonstrate criminal damage in order to establish civil liability for the damage caused and seek compensation.

An A Coruña court this month acquitted the captain and the ship's chief engineer of any environmental wrongdoing following a long investigation and lengthy trial. The former director of Spain's Merchant Marine was also absolved of any wrongdoing.

Town councils from Brittany and Landes had said they similarly planned to seek compensation. The Galician regional government, the state attorney's office in A Coruña and local pressure group Nunca Máis have also said they will appeal the ruling.


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