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5 guilty in Argentina nightclub fire

Judges convict a concert promoter, city officials and a band manager in the 2004 blaze that killed 194 people at the overcrowded Cromagnon Republic club. The Callejeros band is absolved.

August 20, 2009|Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES — Judges convicted a concert promoter, city officials and a band manager Wednesday in a 2004 fire that killed 194 people at an overcrowded working-class nightclub.

The Argentine court absolved the Callejeros band of criminal responsibility for the blaze caused by fans' fireworks.

The verdict for the band and the court's decision to allow those convicted to remain free pending appeal prompted an uproar. Police struggled to separate relatives of victims and followers of the band who punched each other in the courtroom and outside.

Many people had hoped for stiff sentences for a police supervisor and city inspectors accused of taking bribes and allowing fans to carry fireworks into the Cromagnon Republic nightclub, where 3,000 people squeezed into a space designed for 1,000.

Club owner and concert promoter Omar Chaban was given 20 years for causing the fire and for bribery. The band's manager and a high-ranking police official got 18 years. Two city inspectors received two-year sentences.

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