CAIRO: The High Disciplinary Court found 49 officials from the General Organization for Culture Palaces guilty of negligence in the case of the Beni Suef Theater fire that killed 46 people in 2005.
The group was slammed with sentences ranging from LE 300 fines to early retirement.
On Wednesday, the court ordered seven officials into early retirement, fined another seven LE 300, and 30 others were penalized with a two-month salary deduction. The remaining five were reprimanded by the court.
The verdict did not elicit any official response from the Ministry of Culture, said spokesman Ahmed Saleh.
“We refuse to comment on a court verdict, Saleh said.
He did say that the large number of those condemned comes as no surprise. “This was a huge catastrophe, it involved everyone starting from the chairman of the General Organization for Culture Palaces to the doorman who was not there to [unlock the gates to] let the fire trucks in, he said.
Saleh said the court saw the “crime as a case of negligence as opposed to manslaughter.
In May 2006, eight government employees, including Moustafa Elwy, head of the authority for cultural centers that ran the theater, were found guilty of negligence in applying fire and safety measures, and were each sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In March 2007, an appeals court had issued a verdict on the case, sentencing four Culture Ministry officials to three years in jail for negligence.
A later verdict however, ruled that Elwy and three of the officials were not guilty and ordered their release.
The fire erupted inside the Beni Suef theater on Sept. 5, 2005, where more than 150 people were attending a play, after an actor knocked over a candle igniting a paper-filled set and setting off a stampede.
The fire killed 49 people and caused serious injures to around 60 others.
The tragedy was Egypt’s deadliest fire since a blaze swept through a crowded passenger train south of Cairo on Feb. 20, 2002, killing at least 370 people.
Egyptian Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, had submitted his resignation after this incident in 2005, but was asked to retract it by the prime minister on the president’s instructions.