Court acquits 3 over oil tanker ecological disaster 11 years ago

MADRID - A Spanish court has acquitted three people charged over the sinking of the Prestige oil tanker off Spain's northwestern coast 11 years ago that triggered one of Europe's biggest environmental catastrophes.

Judge Juan Luis Pia said Wednesday the court found no criminal responsibility in the sinking and absolved the three defendants — the ship's Greek captain, his first officer and the former director general of Spain's Merchant Marine — of crimes against the environment.

The 26-year-old Prestige ran into problems during a storm in November 2002. It was ordered out to sea and sank days later. It spewed most of its 77,000 metric tons (20.5 million gallons or 77.6 million litres) of fuel oil, unleashing un ecological disaster in one of the world's richest fishing grounds.