The Bucharest Court of Appeal on Thursday sentenced a former district mayor to four years in prison for his role in a deadly nightclub fire almost seven years ago that killed 64. Other officials were also given hefty sentences for what was the worst fire in recent history.
The sentences, which are final, came at the end of a six-year trial which was criticized for dragging on for too long.
The court also sentenced eight other people including the club owners, pyrotechnics officials and a firefighter for the Oct. 2015 fire at the Colectiv nightclub.
A total of 64 people died and hundreds were injured in the disaster which occurred after fireworks sparked a deflagration which engulfed the venue.
The blaze shocked the country and triggered a wave of anti-corruption protests that led to the resignation of the government.
It sparked a nationwide debate about bribery, safety standards and bureaucracy. But public anger faded and there were fears that the trial would exonerate the defendants.
Mr Piedone, the former mayor was charged abuse of office, for handing out two fire and safety permits to the club when the venue did not meet the required standards.
Club owner George Alin Anastasescu was handed a sentence of more than 11 years, another club owner Costin Mincu received an 8-year sentence while the third owner Paul Cătălin was sentenced to more than 6 years for aggravated homicide and failure of health and safety laws.
Pyrotechnicians were handed sentences of more than six years, and one firefighter received a sentence of 8 years and 8 months for handing a permit to the club which was not fire-proof.
The last hearing was held in December 2021 which was followed by several postponements.
Abuse of office
The court also ruled that the ex-mayor be banned from holding public office for five years after his release.
The court ordered the convicted persons together in conjunction with the fourth district town hall, the emergency services to pay more than 50 million euros to surviving victims and the families of the deceased,
Prosecutors had demanded the maximum penalties for all the defendants. They said that a result of corruption, many lives were lost.
“We are not talking about two deaths, we are talking about a cemetery,” they said.
The trial which dragged on for many years was due to end in June 2021, but the panel of judges requested the legal classification for some of the charges the defendants were facing.
Victims lawyers and an anti-corruption prosecutor accused the judges that they were trying to delay the trial and get reduced sentences for the defendants.
The two judges of the panel did not agree on the change of the legal classification of the facts, so a panel of divergences was formed, by including a third magistrate. A panel was called to settle the dispute and a compromise was found.