PERM, January 30 (Itar-Tass) - The owner of Perm's nightclub Khromaya Loshad /Lame Horse/ where 156 people died in a fire, conveyed his condolences to the victims' families. "Respected relatives of the people who died an untimely death. I'm expressing my sincere condolences. I very much regret that my investments in my deceased friend, Khromaya Loshad owner Titlyanov, have brought so much suffering," Anatoly Zak stated at the trial at Perm's Lenin district court on Wednesday.
The defendant believes that "they are trying to put all the blame" on him. "They made a scapegoat of me, and slated me for punishment. I've long understood that it's my cross and has been bearing it for the fourth year running," he said.
He drew the court's attention to the fact that it was unofficial executive director Svetlana Yefremova who was actually responsible for fire safety. "During the proceedings, Yefremova introduced herself in different ways, but never as fire safety director or cafe founder," Zak said, underlining that Yefremova had slandered him during the investigation. "But I believe her testimony was given under duress; she had spoken about psychological pressure," he added.
Zak, who refused to admit his guilt, asked for a softer punishment. The prosecutor for the state had demanded 10 years in jail for him.
The fire at the Perm nightclub broke out overnight to December 5, 2009, as it was marking the first anniversary of its establishment. One hundred and fifty-six people died of carbon monoxide and other toxic combustion gases poisoning and another 65 suffered serious harm to health. The authorities recognized 404 people to be the victims within the criminal case.
On June 4, 2010, the Investigative Committee (SK) brought the finalized charges against eight people, including co-founder of the Lame Horse cafe Anatoly Zak, executive director Svetlana Yefremova, and art director Oleg Fetkulov. They were charged with the commission of the crime covered by Article 238, Part 3 of Russia's Criminal Code (provision of services that fail to meet the requirements for the safety of life or health of consumers, which resulted, through negligence, in the death of two or more persons).
The firework show organizers (the Derbenev father and son) were charged with violating the rules for the use of explosives, flammable substances and pyrotechnic products.
Former chief regional fire safety inspector Vladimir Mukhutdinov was charged with abuse of office powers, and fire safety inspectors Dmitry Roslyakov and Natalia Prokopyeva - with negligence.
According to the SK, the fire broke out during the show with the so-called "cold fireworks." At first, foam plastic that lined the ceiling caught fire. The investigators also blamed the improper performance of duties by fire inspectorate personnel, who had failed to expose various violations of the fire safety regulations at the cafe.
The prosecutors said the guilt of all the defendants had been proven and asked the court to sentence them to two to ten years. They demanded the toughest penalty for Anatoly Zak.
The injured parties asked for the maximum jail terms for the defendants.
"We, the injured parties in the Lame Horse fire case, are very indignant at the position taken by the prosecutor for the state on the jail terms for defendants Yefremova and Prokopyeva. We believe the penalties are too soft, and do not match the gravity of the act. We respectfully ask the court to review the case equitably and analyze the evidence of the defendant's guilt while being guided by law and conscience. For us, it is the last attempt to be heard."
“Lame Horse” co-owner Konstantin Mrykhin was detained in Spain and extradited to Russia. On May 14, 2012, Perm's Lenin district court sentenced him to 6.5 years in a general regime penitentiary and ordered to pay 200 million roubles in compensation to victims.