Spanish general, two other officials jailed for false IDs after air disaster

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A file photo of a similar aircraft

Spain's National Court has sentenced an army general and two other army officials for deliberate falsification of documents identifying victims after an air disaster. Thirty victims had identities randomly assigned without DNA testing.

In 2003, a Yak-42 chartered from Ukraine to take Spanish soldiers home from Afghanistan crashed in Turkey. Sixty-two Spanish soldiers and thirteen crew from Ukraine and Belarus were killed. General Vicente Navarro was designated to head a team to travel to Turkey and repatriate the bodies.

This team was then informed by Turkish coroners that thirty of the bodies were so badly maimed that visual identification was impossible and DNA tests would be required to identify these victims. The Spanish victims were then transported back to Spain, on the understanding that DNA tests would be carried out in Spain.

Instead, two days later they were given a state funeral with thirty identities randomly assigned to the thirty unidentified bodies. When the situation became apparent months later, the bodies had to be exhumed for identification.

Navarro was today sentenced to a 1,800 fine, a two-year ban from office and a three-year prison sentence after his conviction for falsifying records. It is the first time the National Court has imposed any sentence on a general. Also sentenced today were Commandant José Ramírez and Captain Miguel Sáez, who were responsible for producing the flawed autopsy reports. Each received an 18-month jail sentence.

The case is not yet over, as Ramírez and Sáez may have the court consider suspending their sentences, while Navarro is intending an appeal to the Supreme Court. Navarro had admitted that there may have been mistakes made, but blamed errors made by the Turkish authorities. Ramírez and Sáez, meanwhile, had stated that they were clear as to what appropriate procedure entailed, but said that they were obeying orders.