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Colectiv: Appeals court jails eight people over deadly Romania nightclub fire

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By Matthew Holroyd
A woman watches photos of the victims of the “Colectiv” nightclub fire during a vigil in memory of them on October 30, 2021 in Bucharest, Romania
A woman watches photos of the victims of the “Colectiv” nightclub fire during a vigil in memory of them on October 30, 2021 in Bucharest, Romania   -   Copyright  Credit: AFP

Eight people have been jailed over a deadly fire at a nightclub in the Romanian capital Bucharest, which killed at least 64 people and injured 150 others.

The blaze at Colectiv nightclub in 2015 rocked the country, sparking protests over corruption that eventually saw the government fall.

Today, a Romanian appeals court handed down final prison sentences totalling 61 years for the eight found responsible for the fire. 

It was later revealed that Colectiv -- and several other bars and nightclubs In Romania -- did not meet fire safety regulations.

Up to 400 revellers had been enjoying a performance by the metal band Goodbye to Gravity, before the group's pyrotechnics set fire to the nightclub. 

More than 25 people were killed in the initial blaze and stampede while dozens more later died of their injuries in hospital. Four members of the band were among the victims.

The fire -- the deadliest in Romania's history -- also revealed serious shortcomings and corruption in Romania's public healthcare system.

Subsequent mass protests eventually brought down the country’s Social Democratic government and forced the resignation of Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

Former district mayor Cristian Popescu Piedone received a four-year prison sentence for allowing Colectiv to operate despite it not meeting the necessary safety standards.

Piedone had initially been sentenced in the first instance to eight years and six months in prison but had his sentence reduced on Thursday by the Bucharest Court of Appeal. A few days before the sentencing, he was arrested by police at Bucharest's airport and prevented from leaving the country.

The other jailed suspects included the three owners of the nightclub, a pyrotechnician and two fire officials who had issued permits to Colectiv.

One of the club’s owners, Alin Gheorghe Anastasescu, was given the longest prison sentence of 11 years and eight months.

The director of a fireworks company was also given a suspended sentence of two years and six months, while three other city hall officials on trial were acquitted.

Survivors and victims’ relatives have long complained about legal delays over the final verdict, which has been postponed four times.

A second investigation into the actions of rescue workers and health ministry officials is still underway.

Additional sources • APF, EFE