The chief executive of German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp's Italian unit was sentenced to 16.5 years in jail on Friday over charges related to a factory fire that killed seven employees in December 2007.
Harald Espenhahn was convicted by a court in the northern city of Turin of "voluntary homicide," a first in Italy for a workplace accident.
Seven workers died after suffering severe burns when a fire broke out at the steel plant's thermal treatment department. The fire was one of the worst in Italy and sparked a public debate over health and safety regulations.
The Italian court also handed out lengthy jail terms to five other managers and fined the company 1 million euros ($1.45 million). In addition, the steel company will not be allowed to benefit from Italian state subsidies for six months. During the same period, ThyssenKrupp will also be banned from advertising its products in Italy.
The steelmaker called the verdict against Espenhahn "incomprehensible and inexplicable," adding that its attorneys would look into what can be done about it.
"We are totally unsatisfied and we will appeal," defense lawyer Cesare Zaccone said after the verdict. "But I don't believe we will obtain a lot more."
The verdict was welcomed by prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello who said it would "mean a lot for health and safety at the workplace."
Author: Joanna Impey (AP, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Toma Tasovac