The Provincial Court in Palma is to question and hear statements next month from the 82 air traffic controllers who face charges of sedition related to action taken in December 2010 which caused air traffic chaos. At a time when the controllers were in dispute with the Spanish government, the 82 failed to show up for work or left work, claiming sickness. This was during the Constitution holiday period.
Rather than all 82 appearing at one time, the court sessions are to be over four days. There will therefore be a staggering of when the controllers appear in court. The national air navigation company, Enaire, is satisfied that this will not lead to any air traffic disruption; there had been a concern that the controllers might all have had to be in court at the same time.
The individual appearances are not expected to last more than five minutes, with the controllers unlikely to respond to prosecution questions. It will be left to their defence lawyers to admit to facts or not. After these appearances, further court sessions are scheduled in order to consider the sedition charges, which are covered by the air navigation code and for which the prosecution is seeking four years imprisonment. An alternative charge is a lesser one - that of abandoning the place of work.
Of the 82, 75 are willing to go along with this lesser charge, with their union - UCAS - having arranged for compensation to be paid to passengers. The other seven reject this, arguing either that their absence was justified because they had previously been off work for the same reasons or that they weren't due to have been on the shifts when the disruption occurred.
The prosecution service has made it a condition that all 82 should agree. It is thought that this may, in the end, turn out to be the case.