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Leaders of alumina plant responsible for Hungary's worst ecological accident sentenced

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MAL alumina plant
Europe   MAL alumina plant

The two main leaders of the MAL alumina plant responsible for Hungary's worst ecological accident, the red mud spill of 2010, were given jail sentences.

The two were sentenced respectively to 2.5 and to 2 years of prison, while eight other managers of the plant received suspended prison sentences. Five defendants were acquitted by a court in Gyor, western Hungary, reported Hungarian news agency MTI.

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.

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."

In January 2016, the first level court of Veszprem acquitted Bakonyi, along with 14 employees after a trial of more than three years.

In February 2017, a court in Gyor ordered a new trial of 15 employees of the MAL alumina plan. 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.

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.

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