Spain govt accepts responsibility for 2003 military plane crash

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MADRID: Spain’s defence ministry took political responsibility for the first time on Wednesday for a 2003 air accident which killed 62 Spanish soldiers as they were returning from Afghanistan.

“There are reparations that are not economic, which have to do with recognition,” Defence Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal told radio Cadena Cope a day after she met family members of the victims.

Sixty-two Spanish soldiers and 13 Ukrainian and Belarusian crew were killed on May 26, 2003 when a Russian-built Yak-42 bringing them back from Afghanistan crashed in a mountainous area of northeast Turkey.

The defence ministry had chartered the plane from a Ukrainian firm despite warnings from military authorities that it was in poor shape.

The accident was followed by a scandal over the misidentification of the bodies of 30 of the soldiers, which had been delivered to the wrong families.

Three Spanish military officers received jail terms in 2009 for having misidentified the bodies.

The crash and subsequent misidentification scandal hurt the popularity of the then conservative government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

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