Spanish military air crash in Turkey – families given wrong bodies

After a year of speculation, campaigning by the victims’ families, constant denial by the previous PP government of any malpractice or mistakes in identification procedures etc. DNA tests carried out last month prove that important mistakes were made in the identification procedure of at least 20 bodies in the days following the air crash over Turkey of a military plane carrying members of the Spanish peacekeeping corps.

When the crash occurred last year, political and media critics at the time accused Aznar of hiring one of the cheapest planes available to bring the troops home from their mission in Afghanistan (the Defence Ministry contracted an old Yakolev-42 run by a Ukrainian charter company) and of rushing to bring the bodies home, at the cost of proper identification, so that funerals could go ahead quickly and any political damage would be minimised. When the bodies were returned to Spain the relatives were given closed coffins after a state funeral service at a military airport in Madrid presided over by King Juan Carlos and attended by grief-stricken and angry relatives.

The Defense Minister at the time strongly denied any mismanagement of the crisis, as did the generals sent over by the PP Government to carry out the process of identification and repatriation of the corpses. They accused their critics of trying to make political gains out of a tragedy. Despite the fact that the Turkish authorities warned that 30 corpses had still not been identified when the Spanish military authorities arrived to repatriate the bodies, and claimed it was materially impossible for the Spaniards to have identified the bodies in the short time they were there before flying back to Spain with the coffins, Aznar’s government refused to carry out new DNA tests to prove their case, and the families were repeatedly told that no mistakes had been made.

During the election campaign, Zapatero pledged to find out the truth and promised to offer logistical support to relatives who wanted to carry out DNA tests. One of the first trips abroad of Socialist Defence Minister José Bono was to Turkey last month when he accompanied 152 relatives to the area near the Black Sea where the chartered plane crashed and participated in memorial ceremonies in Macka and on the mountainside where the crash occurred.

The Association of Victims Families is expected to give a press conference today, and José Bono has said he will appear in Congress next week to explain the findings in greater detail. He said he would not use the issue to attack or discredit the previous government, but said that the Spanish people needed to know the truth. He is also expected to make some changes in top military posts in the Spanish army.

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