ALGIERS, July 31 (Reuters) - An Algerian court handed prison sentences on Tuesday to 28 businessmen and engineers blamed for the collapse of hundreds of buildings during an earthquake in 2003 that left thousands dead.
Twenty-seven defendants were jailed for two years and fined 50,000 dinars ($714) each, while the last received three years in jail and a fine in absentia from the court in Boumerdes province east of Algiers, a judicial source said.
Measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale, the 2003 quake killed 2,300 people, injured more than 10,000 and made about 100,000 homeless. It was the deadliest in the oil-exporting country since 1980, when violent tremors killed 3,000 people.
Panic caused by the tremor quickly turned to anger as Algerians accused the government of turning a blind eye to the shoddy work of unscrupulous builders.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika ordered an investigation, which later found serious faults in the construction of thousands of houses, apartment blocks and high-rise buildings that collapsed in the quake-prone province.
The 28 were convicted on charges including "manslaughter, fraud on the quality and quantity of construction materials and the non-respect of building standards".
They can appeal within a week against the convictions issued by judge Redouane Benabdallah, who also acquitted 10 other people.