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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Court closes arguments in Villaggio fire case, as families await June verdict

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A Qatar court has accepted written arguments from key stakeholders in the case to determine criminal responsibility in last year’s fatal Villaggio fire

After 14 sessions, arguments are now closed, and the judge said a verdict will be announced in June, nearly a month after the one-year anniversary of the May 28 fire.

This morning, many of the relatives of the 19 people killed in the fire expressed dismay and disappointment at the 77 more days they’ll have to wait for some answers.

“We were frustrated to hear that the verdict will come out on the 20th of June,” one parent told Doha News. “Our only consolation is that the judge may rule on both the criminal and civil cases simultaneously, which will save us time. Qatari law affords the judge this discretion.”

The criminal aspect of the case will involve sentencing of jail time, if any,  of the defendants, who include the Gympanzee co-owners, four Villaggio mall officials and an employee of the Ministry of Business & Trade. The payment of blood money, which is a standard QR200,000 per person in Qatar, will also be determined.

Punitive damages

The civil aspect involves deciding how much monetary compensation to provide the victims’ families. The lawyer representing these families has asked the court for compensation for emotional and other damages, one parent told Doha News.

It is possible that the judge will decide only on the criminal aspect of the trial and leave the civil suit to another court. The case will also likely continue after the court’s summer break if either the defendants or the prosecutor appeal the judge’s decision.

Meanwhile, emotions are high in Qatar as the one-year anniversary of the fire approaches. Just yesterday, Civil Defense evacuated all of Villaggio mall as a precaution over an electrical shortage in an air conditioning unit. 

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo by Cassim Shephard

Note: The amount of monetary compensation requested by the victims’ lawyer has been removed at the request of some of the parents.

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