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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Egyptian theatre fire convictions
Friends and relatives look at burned man in Beni Suef, Egypt
Many died in the stampede for the theatre's single available exit
Eight Egyptian officials have been convicted of negligence relating to the enforcement of fire prevention standards at a theatre.

The officials, all from the ministry of culture, have each been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Nearly 50 people died in a blaze at the theatre in September 2005 in the town of Beni Suef, 100km south of Cairo.

The theatregoers died after a candle on stage was knocked over, setting fire to the paper stage set and the building.

The highest-ranking of the defendants was Mustafa Alwy, the former chairman of the Culture Palaces Authority, which ran the theatre.

The other seven men were directors of different departments in Beni Suef's Culture Palace and theatre.

The minister of culture, Farouk Hosni, submitted his resignation after the fire, but this was rejected by President Hosni Mubarak - a move which was strongly condemned by Egypt's artistic and intellectual community.

Many of those killed in the fire were caught up in a stampede for the single available exit from the theatre. Sixty people were also injured in the incident.

The convicted officials have the right of appeal.

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