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Russian nightclub owner convicted for fire

An owner of a Russian nightclub where a fire killed 156 people was convicted of negligence on Tuesday, along with seven others including the organiser of a pyrotechnics show that caused the blaze. State prosecutors are seeking jail sentences of up to 10 years over the December 2009 fire at the Lame Horse nightclub in the city of Perm, 1,150 km (720 miles) east of Moscow. The guilty verdicts came three days after a fire at a psychiatric hospital near Moscow killed 38 people, renewing concerns about safety standards in Russia. Sentences will be delivered on a later date.

Club co-owner Anatoly Zak, the regional fire safety inspector and the head of the company responsible for the fireworks display were all convicted. A former co-owner of the club, Konstantin Mykhrin, was extradited to Russia from Spain and was sentenced to six and a half years in prison last May.

The fire was caused by sparks setting fire to wicker coverings on the walls and ceiling during a party. Many of the victims choked and others were crushed as they tried to get out.

Victims' relatives in the court room groaned when the judge said Zak deserved leniency because he was a father and that he had alerted authorities to the fire and helped rescue efforts, Interfax news agency said.

Fires killed more than 12,000 people in Russia in 2011, compared to about 3,000 in the United States, with a population more than twice the size.

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