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Defendants In Spanish Toxic Oil Trial Await Verdict

June 28, 1988

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ The longest trial in Spanish history adjourned Tuesday amid angry outbursts against 38 defendants awaiting a verdict on charges they sold toxic rapeseed oil that killed 621 people.

The three-judge panel that presided over the 15-month trial - dubbed Spain’s ″trial of the century″ by the press - was expected to deliberate for at least three months before reaching a verdict on the charges, which include involuntary manslaughter and health fraud.

About 25,000 people told health authorities they fell ill after buying what was sold in 1981 as cheap olive oil imported from France, mostly in poor neighborhoods around Madrid.

Defense attorneys argued the prosecution had failed to show the adulterated rapeseed oil caused the deaths and injuries.

Prosecutor Eduardo Fungairino accused eight of the defendants of manslaughter and demanded they be given sentences totaling 85,088 years in prison.

He also sought 25,952 years in jail for the other 30 defendants charged with a variety of fraud and public health crimes as well as indemnities of $120,000 for the families of each of the dead victims.

As the defendants were whisked away on a bus, some women cried, three others fainted, while several began screaming, ″Murderer 3/8″

In his final argument, Fungairino called the sale of the rapeseed oil ″alimentary terrorism″ and demanded ″exemplary punishment.″

The maximum prison term under Spanish law is 30 years.

More than 1,500 witnesses and 200 experts have testified since the trail opened March 30, 1987, in the 680-seat courtroom built on the outskirts of Madrid especially for this case.

″I’ve come every day,″ said 72-year-old Cayetano Bermejo, who was at the final session of the trial. He added that both he and his wife suffered bladder, liver and heart ailments since consuming the oil in 1981.

″I want them to do me justice and fix my life, which they took away from me,″ he said.

″I want them to cure me, but if they don’t, they should at least punish the murderers,″ said Concha Rodriguez, another woman who said she became ill after buying the oil in an open-air market in Madrid.

″My brother 3/8 My brother 3/8 My brother 3/8″ another woman wailed over and over.

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