Zolitūde supermarket disaster trial starts

On Tuesday the trial resulting from the Zolitūde supermarket cave-in started, more than two years after the deadly roof collapse of a Maxima supermarket that took 54 lives on November 21, 2013. The next hearings are scheduled for early March 2016, reported Latvian Radio Tuesday.

The hearing was held in the Ķīpsala International Exposition Centre and conducted by the Rīga Zemgale District Court.

It was held outside court buildings as the court didn't have facilities for admitting the several hundred people involved in the trial, and the dozens of relatives of those killed wishing to attend.

The scale of the trial is unprecedented in Latvian legal history.

The presiding judge of the case is Erlens Ernstons. Also on the panel are judges Aiga Freimane and Dzintra Zemitāne, with Elīna Leitāne named as a substitute judge.

The prosecutors in the case are Agris Skradailis, Kaspars Cakuls and Jekaterina Kušakova. A total of nine persons are accused.

The meeting started with the judges ruling against debarring themselves from the trial.

There were requests for Judges Dzintra Zemitāne and Erlens Ernstons to be relieved from the trial as they had a personal relationship with some of the persons involved and thus could potentially find themselves in a conflict of interest.

After hearing the arguments from these persons and their representatives, the judges decided against debarring themselves. 

The trial is being recorded. It is also being translated into Russian. 

The court decided, after taking a two-and-a-half hour break over the matter, not to separate the lawsuit into several processes, arguing that no rights of the parties will be broken in that way and that the proceedings will be finished in time. 

The next hearing of the case will take place in early March 2016 - on March 1, 2, and 3 at 10 a.m. Hearing dates have been planned until December 2016, though the trial could potentially run even longer. 

A total of 263 persons have been named victims in the trial, while 144 have been named witnesses. Ten experts are also participating in the trial. The file of the case spans some 80 volumes. 

Nine persons are accused in the case. Construction engineer Ivars Sergets, architect Andris Kalinka, construction expert Andris Gulbis, construction inspector Mārtiņš Draudiņš and the head of construction at the Re&Re company Staņislavs Kumpiņš have been accusing of violating construction law, along with the charge of manslaughter.

Three representatives of the Rīga construction board - Jānis Balodis, Marika Treija and Aija Meļņikova - have been accused of not fulfilling their official duties, leading to tragic consequences. Inna Šuvajeva, an employee of the Maxima supermarket, has been accused of violating work safety law.

A total of 54 people died and several dozens more were injured as a Maxima supermarket in Riga's Zolitude neighborhood collapsed on November 21, 2013. The Riga supermarket tragedy has become the largest loss of life since the restoration of independence in 1991.

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