Six years since Colectiv fire – Protest against the delay of the trial of those responsible for the tragedy

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A series of demonstrations took place on Saturday in the Capital to commemorate the over 60 victims of the fire that broke out six years ago in the Colectiv club in Bucharest, that prompted mass protests and led to the fall of the PSD Government led by Victor Ponta at that time.

Relatives of those who died as a result of the fire at Colectiv six years ago, protested Saturday night in front of the Bucharest Court of Appeal. Photographs of the victims were placed on the steps of the institution, and the relatives, covered with white sheets, lay in front of them. The images on the panels were accompanied by information on the age and occupation of the victims.

The families and friends of the Colectiv victims who died in the fire in the Collective Club on October 30, 2015 protested against the slowness with which the trial of those found guilty of the tragedy took place. Six years after the tragedy that shattered Romania there is still no final ruling in the criminal file.

Among the photos with the victims of the deadly fire, the protesters also posted images with the heads of some institutions, such as images with the president Klaus Iohannis and Victor Ponta, prime minister at that time. At the same time, photos were taken with Cristian Popescu Piedone, former mayor of sector 4 where the Colectiv club was also located, but also Nicolae Bănicioiu, former minister of health at that time, who a few days after the tragedy in Colectiv declared that “we have everything” , with reference to the treatment of fire wounded. The images with the officials were the only color, while those of the victims were black and white.

As a matter of fact, President Klaus Iohannis did not attend ceremonies commemorating the victims  on Saturday. It is the second time, after 2017, when the president does not go to the Collective to pay tribute to the 65 young people who lost their lives. An employee of the Presidential Administration brought a wreath in front of the club on Saturday morning. And the representatives of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate sent a wreath on behalf of each institutuon through people who delivered the wreaths.

65 people, mostly youngsters, lost their lives in a tragic fire that broke out in the Colectiv club in Bucharest on the night of October 30, 2015, where the rock band Goodbye to Gravity was performing a concert to launch their latest album. The fire started from some fireworks quickly spread inside the club and many of them remained trapped in there. The fireworks used during the event led to the lighting of the polyurethane sponge on a pillar of the venue where about 400 were attending the concert. More than 160 people were injured.

So far, no final ruling has been pronounced in this case, which is still being tried at the Bucharest Court of Appeal. However, there were several postponements due to misunderstandings regarding the change in the classification of the facts for the accused civil servants. The main target is the former mayor of Sector 4, Cristian Popescu-Piedone, who could be charged with negligence in office instead of abuse of office. The two judges, who initially looked into the case and were due to announce a decision in June, disagreed, so a third judge was needed to tip the scales. The trial resumed in September this year, but there have been several postponements since then, so the decision to change the legal framework is still pending, as is the sentence.

Meanwhile, the former District 4 mayor Piedone was allowed to run in the local elections again last year and he even won the mandate of mayor in another district of Bucharest, District 5.

In a first court, Bucharest Tribunal pronounced the following sentences:

● Cristian Popescu – Piedone, former District 4 mayor: 8 years and 6 months in prison; ● Alin George Anastasescu, owner of Colectiv club: 11 yrs and 8 months in prison ● Costin Mincu, another Colectiv’s owner: 11 yrs and 8 months in prison; ● Cătălin Paul Gancea, the third Colectiv club’s owner: 11 yrs and 8 months in prison; ● Antonina Radu Antonina, fireman at the Emergency Situations Inspectorate: 9 years and 2 months in prison; ● George-Petrică Matei, ISU fireman: 9 years and 2 months in prison; ● Aurelia Iofciu, employee of the District 4 City Hall: 8 years in prison; ● Luminiţa Larisa Ganea, superior adviser the District 4 City Hall: 7 yrs in prison; ● Sandra Ramona Moţoc, superior referee at the District 4 City Hall: 3 yrs on probation ● Daniela Ioana Niţă, owner of the fireworks company: 12 yrs and 8 months in prison ( she died this summer, she was found dead in her house in August); ● Cristian Mihai Niţă, owner of the fireworks company: 3 yrs and 6 months in prison; ● Viorel Zaharia,arson expert: 9 yrs and 8months in prison; ● Marian Moise, arson expert: 10yrs in prison; ● Colectiv Club Ltd: 470 days of fine, RON 5,000 fine for each day and the seizure of RON 62,298; ● Golden Ideas Fireworks Artists Ltd: 470 days of fine, RON 5,000 fine for each day ● SC Noran Prompt Serv Ltd: seizure of RON 147,133.

The Golden Ideas Fireworks was entirely owned by Daniela Niță, who held 100% of the shares. She was found dead this August, she was 44 years old. Her brother, Cristian Niță, was the manager of the company and he was also sentenced to prison, but received a milder jail sentence.

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