Date: 9/24/2008 8:06 PM

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) _ A Paraguayan court convicted an architect of negligence Wednesday and sentenced him to two years in prison for faulty construction of a supermarket where 420 people died in a fire.

The three-judge panel that convicted Bernardo Ismachowiez, 53, found that he was responsible for defective design and construction that placed lives at risk. Prosecutors said there were not enough emergency exits.

Ismachowiez’s lawyer, Adolfo Ferreiro, promised to seek his client’s immediate release, saying he has already spent two years under house arrest.

More than 2,000 people were in the Ycua Bolanos supermarket in downtown Asuncion on Aug. 1, 2004, when the fire began in the bakery. The blaze quickly filled the building with thick smoke, and most of the victims died of asphyxiation.

More than 150 relatives of the fire’s victims protested outside the courthouse Wednesday, accusing the judges of corruption and calling them “scoundrels.”

“Even though the conviction is historic because it’s the first time a builder will go to prison for negligence, it’s unfortunate he received so few years,” said the leader of a victims’ association, Liz Torres.

The store’s owners and a security guard were previously given prison terms for manslaughter and endangerment on accusations they blocked the exit to keep shoppers from looting during the chaos.

But a court overturned their convictions this month, citing “serious defects” in the trial. Prosecutors are appealing.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

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