New trial starts over Hungary's worst ecological accident

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-12 02:25:39|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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BUDAPEST, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- A new trial started Monday in Veszprem over Hungary's worst ecological accident, the 2010 red mud spill, with the first defendant, the former CEO of the MAL alumina plant declaring he was innocent of all criminal liability.

Zoltan Bakonyi, the former CEO, expressed his condolences to the victims of the case. "If we could have done anything to prevent the tragedy, we would have done it," he said.

Although a court of Gyor is conducting the trial, the hearings are taking place in Veszprem, closer to where the accident happened.

In addition to declaring himself not guilty in any way of the charges against him, Bakonyi said the earlier legal procedure in the Veszprem tribunal had been "complete and detailed."

"Some elements of the charges became obsolete as they had already been denied by experts, such as the accusation of the lack of information to the public, or the charge of hazardous waste treatment," he said.

In January 2016, the first level court of Veszprem acquitted Bakonyi, along with 14 employees.

Last February, a court in Gyor ordered a new trial of 15 employees of the MAL alumina plant. The verdict of the first level trial has been annulled because of procedural deficiencies.

Prosecutors argued that the original verdict was marred by procedural irregularities, and that the red mud spill could have been avoided if the firm's management had intervened without delay.

Following a trial of more than three years, 15 employees were cleared of negligence and causing damage to the environment. The verdict had fueled lots of criticism both from the victims, and even from the Hungarian government.

The lower municipal court of Veszprem had found that the main reason for the event was a loss of stability in the deeper layers of the soil, and the management of the firm could not have prevented the accident from happening.

The court found that the original designs were mainly at fault, along with the negligence of authorities that carried out controls and supervision for years.

The red mud spill happened in Ajka, western Hungary on Oct. 4, 2010, when the wall of a reservoir burst, releasing some 1.1 million cubic meters of poisonous sludge into the rural area.

The accident claimed the lives of 10 people, while 150 others were injured, mostly due to chemical burns. The sludge spread throughout several smaller rivers, and reached the Danube as well.