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AFGHANISTAN TRAGEDY

Families of Yak-42 victims angry over pardons

Association wants two men kicked out of the military

Families of the 62 victims who perished in the 2003 Yaklovlev-42 air transport plane disaster have conveyed their anger to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for pardoning the only two military officials who were convicted for misidentifying the bodies of half of the dead soldiers.

“This isn’t good, Mr Rajoy. This is a mockery. You cannot dishonor the memory of the 62 men who gave their lives for Spain,” said Miguel Ángel Sencianes, president of the association of the families of the victims of the Yak-42 disaster. In a meeting on Saturday, association members said they will do all they can to ensure that the two men in question are kicked out of the military.

The two military medical officials — José Ramón Ramírez García and Miguel Ángel Sáez García — were convicted in 2009 and sentenced to 18 months in prison for misidentifying 30 of the 62 soldiers who died on May 26, 2003 when the Yak-42 chartered plane they were traveling in crashed over Trabzon, Turkey while flying back from Afghanistan to a military base in Zaragoza.

The pair, along with former General Vicente Navarro, were convicted by the High Court for the errors made due to their haste to get the bodies back to Madrid in time for an official funeral organized by the then-Popular Party (PP) government of Prime Minister José María Aznar.

Along with the 62 Spanish soldiers, 13 Ukrainian and Belorussian crew members also died in the crash.

“We are prepared to go to hell to seek justice,” said a visibly upset Sencianes. “Our work is not done and we want you to know that, Mr Trillo,” he added, addressing former Defense Minister Federico Trillo, who is now the Spanish ambassador in London. The families blame Trillo for the subsequent cover-up in the scandal regarding the misidentification of the bodies.

Besides the 18-month jail term, the two soldiers were barred from military service for one year and each ordered to pay a 900-euro fine. General Navarro, who was also convicted, was given three years in prison. However, he died in 2010, before beginning his sentence.

The government’s pardon of Ramírez García and Sáez García means they will escape being kicked out of the military. The association, however, said it will call on Defense Minister Pedro Morenés to expel them.