French prosecutors said Wednesday that they would not seek convictions for Air France and plane maker Airbus over the 2009 crash of a Rio-Paris flight, saying they were unable to prove the companies were guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Their guilt "appears to us to be impossible to prove. We know that this view will most likely be difficult to hear for the civil plaintiffs, but we are not in a position to demand the conviction of Air France and Airbus," the public prosecutor said in court.
The two France-based companies went on trial in October to determine their responsibility for the worst aviation disaster in Air France's history, which left 228 dead on board flight AF447.
Both have denied the involuntary manslaughter charges that carry a maximum fine of 225,000 euros ($236,000).
The decision not to seek a conviction by the public prosecutor is unusual but does not mean that the three-person team of judges overseeing the trial has to follow their advice.
Prosecutors initially dropped charges against the companies in 2019 in a decision that infuriated victims' families at the time.
A Paris appeals court overturned this decision in 2021 and ordered the trial to go ahead.
"We have a prosecutor who is supposed to defend the people who in the end is defending the multinational Airbus," Daniele Lamy, the head of victims' association Entraide et Solidarite AF447, told reporters on Wednesday.
She denounced a "trial skewed against the pilots".
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