Egypt: court finds 8 government officials guilty in theater fire case

Eight senior Culture Ministry officials, including Mustafa Alwy, chairman of the Culture Palaces Authority that ran the theater, were sentenced to 10 years in prison. The other seven were directors of different departments in the town's Culture Palace and theater.

The judge found them guilty of negligence in applying fire codes and safety measures at the theater in Beni Suef, a farming town of 200,000 about 90 kilometers (60 miles) south of Cairo.

On Sept. 5, 2005, more than 150 people were watching a play inside the theater when an actor knocked over a candle, igniting a paper-filled set and setting off a stampede of people struggling to escape through the only available exit. Fifty people died and some 60 were injured.

The eight defendants have the right to appeal, the AP reports.

The tragedy was Egypt's deadliest fire since a blaze swept through a crowded passenger train south of Cairo on Feb. 20, 2002, killing 370 people.