Sentences could go up to 26 years in prisonWednesday, August 19, 2009
Chabán sentenced to 20 years in Cromañón trial, Callejeros acquitted
Omar Chabán, the manager of rock club Cromañón, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his responsibility in the fire that killed 194 people and injuried more than 1500 people at the club of the Buenos Aires City neighbourhood of Once in 2004. The judges said their vote was unanimous.
The members of rock band Callejeros,Patricio Fontanet, Juan Carbone, Cristian Torrejón, Elio Delgado, Daniel Cardell, Eduardo Vázquez, Maximiliano Djerfy, were meanwhile acquitted on charges of paying bribes and for their responsibility in the fire. Diego Algañaraz, their former manager, was convicted to 18 years in prison.
The City court rejected the annulment requests presented by the defence. Fabiana Fiszbin, former head of Community Safety Watchdog, and her secretary, Ana María Fernández were sentenced to two years in prison for malfeasance for overlooking safety controls that exacerbated the tragedy.
Raúl Villareal, Chabán's right hand, will serve sentenced to year in prison and community service for being indirectly responsible for the bribes paid to the police.
The defence of the accused had already said they would appeal the adverse rulings. The victims' lawyers, who hold the members of Callejeros responsible for promoting the use of fireworks during their shows, which caused the fire, would file appeals.
All of the people who were sentenced will be free while they wait for the result of the appeals. Chabán is not allowed to leave the country nor to leave his house for more than 24 hours straight.
One year after the beginning of the trial and almost five years after the incident, a court in Buenos Aires announced the verdict in the 'Cromañón rock-club' case. Fifteen people had been accused, including officials of the Buenos Aires City administration of Aníbal Ibarra, of being directly or indirectly responsible for the death of the 194 people in the fire.
Ibarra himself had been charged with the fire and impeached. However, he was later acquitted by the courts, which said the former mayor "could not be responsible for the actions of all the officials of his administration."
Chabán and Callejeros were partners in the organization of the concert, held in December 2004, in which around 3,000 people were let in, despite the place's maximum capacity of 1,031 people.
Fireworks and flares were lit by the public (a common practice in Argentine rock concerts then) and the roof caught fire. After the blaze broke out, the emergency doors were locked to avoid people getting in without paying, trapping the audience inside. The fire, the smoke and the locked exit doors sealed the fate of 194 of the attendants.
Last night, the victims' relatives had gathered outside last night at Lavalle square, in front of the Court House, where they kept vigil around a large cardboard panel with the victims' names. Relatives' groups lit candles and attached flowers to each of the victims' photographs.
Chabán arrived at the Court House at 10am today, five hours before the verdict. His lawyer said his client was unfortunately put under a lot more pressure than any other defendant, but added he "trust the judges and (was) sure the sentence would be fair."
Patricio Poplavsky, the lawyer of a large group of victims' relatives, also said beforehand he was ‘confident' about the outcome of the trial. "With all the evidence we have presented, the judge should apply the sentence we asked for," he concluded.