Mexican school owner convicted over quake deaths

A Mexican court has found the owner of a school that collapsed in a 2017 earthquake guilty of culpable homicide over the deaths of 19 children and seven adults.

Prosecutors said they would seek a prison sentence of 57 years for Monica Garcia Villegas, head of the private Rebsamen elementary school in Mexico City, following her conviction late Thursday.

Garcia Villegas was arrested after it was found that she had built a large apartment on top of the classrooms, whose weight is thought to have contributed to the building’s collapse.

The school was the focus of worldwide attention in the hours after the 7.1-magnitude earthquake as rescuers mounted a round-the-clock search for survivors.

A lawyer for Garcia Villegas, who spent more than a year on the run, said she planned to appeal the conviction, which parents of the children urged the courts to uphold.

“The earthquake didn’t kill our children, corruption did, and with this ruling justice begins to be done,” they said in a statement.

Campaigners say that cost-cutting by owners and construction companies, combined with graft or incompetence by the authorities, contributed to the collapse of buildings in the quake, which left 369 people dead. (AFP)