A judge in the Dominican Republic has ordered the release from police custody of a married couple and their daughter who have been held in connection with a deadly explosion and fire that killed or maimed dozens of people at a plastics recycling plant in downtown San Cristóbal.
Judge Miolany Herasme set bail for Edward Armando Vidal Garrido, said by authorities to be the main suspect in the case, at 300,000 pesos ($5,277), payable in cash, according to multiple news outlets that covered the Sept. 5 hearing, held behind closed doors at San Cristóbal's Palacio de Justicia.
The judge also ordered Vidal to be fitted with an electronic monitor. Vidal's wife, Maribel Sandoval Almánzar, and the couple's daughter, Mercedes Altagracia Vidal Sandoval, were released from custody after the judge set bail for the two of them at 1 million pesos ($17,600) in total, local media reported.
All three family members, whom police arrested at their Dominican Republic home on Aug. 30, were ordered not to leave the country and to report periodically to police.
Prosecutors had asked for Vidal, alleged to be the principal owner of Vidal Plast srl, to be jailed for a year and wanted the court to order the suspension of all company activities, a motion that the judge dismissed, according to the news reports. Lawyers for the trio have said they will appeal the judge's rulings against their clients. The case is ongoing.
The Diario Libre news website reported that Vidal Garrido shouted "I'm innocent" at reporters as law officers led him along the courthouse corridors on his way to or from the hearing. It was not clear which. His lawyer reportedly told journalists that he would appeal against the electronic monitor order for health reasons, saying his client has diabetes.
The Aug. 14 blast and a raging inferno that followed it killed 37 people, seriously injured another 59 and destroyed at least nine commercial establishments and several homes, according to the country's Ministerio Público prosecuting agency.
The agency, which did not immediately post any information about the Sept. 5 hearing on its website or answer the phone, claims to have evidence of "criminal irresponsibility" at the recycling facility. It alleges that another fire occurred inside the same plant last March and that corrective measures should have been taken but were not.
San Cristóbal's fire department has said the slow buildup of methane gas and inadequate ventilation may have led to the most recent incident.
Family members of the victims of the tragedy gathered outside the courthouse. Several lawyers representing them told reporters that justice had not been done and that they would appeal the judge's decisions.
Historic San Cristóbal is 12 miles southwest of Santo Domingo, the capital.