Spain Prestige oil spill disaster case in court

Apostolos Mangouras in court in La Coruna, northern Spain, 16 October
Image caption Apostolos Mangouras is seen here in court on Tuesday

The trial has begun in northern Spain of the captain of the Prestige oil tanker that sank in 2002, causing the country's worst environmental disaster.

Apostolos Mangouras, who is Greek, is being tried with two other crew members and a Spanish official in A Coruna.

Some 50,000 tonnes of oil leaked into the Atlantic when the Prestige broke up off the north coast, polluting thousands of miles of coastline.

Lawyers took nearly eight years to investigate the disaster.

The case has taken a further two years to reach trial.

Investigators said it was complicated by the range of nationalities involved. The ship flew under the Bahamas flag, but was insured in UK as part of a Swiss fleet with a largely Greek crew.

It is expected that Tuesday's hearing will be dominated by procedural questions, with the accused unlikely to take the stand until next month.

Prison term sought

Mr Mangouras is accused of causing environmental damage and disregarding the law.

Image caption The Prestige broke up releasing thousands of tonnes of oil off Spain's north coast.

The tanker's Greek chief engineer, Nikolaos Argyropoulos, is also accused, along with Filipino first mate Irineo Maloto, who is not in Spanish custody.

The fourth defendant is Jose Luis Lopez-Sors who, as head of the Spanish merchant navy at the time, allegedly ordered the ship out to sea when it was losing fuel.

Prosecutors are calling for a 12-year prison sentence for Mr Mangouras, should he be found guilty.

Fishermen and local authorities affected by the spill are also demanding around 2.2bn euros (£1.8bn) in damages.

Court documents are believed to put the total damage from the spill at nearly 4bn euros.

The Bahamas-flagged Prestige was owned by a Liberian-based company called Mare Shipping and chartered by a Swiss-based oil trader called Crown Resources.

More on this story