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Friday, January 21, 2022

Families of Villaggio fire victims express anger, frustration after hearing postponed a third time


As the criminal hearing to determine responsibility in the deaths of 19 people killed in the Villaggio fire nearly five months ago sees its third delay, relatives of the victims have been venting their frustration.

“We’re really left in limbo,” Martin Weekes, father of the two-year-old triplets who were killed on May 28 said in an interview with 3 News following Tuesday’s adjournment.

The hearing was postponed again after Iman Al Kuwari, co-owner of the nursery in which 13 children, 4 teachers and 2 firefighters died of smoke inhalation, did not turn up to court.

Though officials at the hearing told Doha News the trial may proceed on Nov. 13 even if Al Kuwari doesn’t attend, Weekes said further delays are possible.

“It sets up back both physically and emotionally,” Weekes said of the adjournments.

The lack of closure has also been trying for the other victims’ parents, he said: “There’s a lot of anger, there’s a lot of pain, there’s a lot of suffering. I sleep for about an hour a night.”

Qatar’s initial investigation found that the fire originated from faulty electrical wiring in a fluorescent light at a store close to Gympanzee. But the full results have not been made publicly available, and in order to access it Weekes said he needs a court order.

Meanwhile, a second committee has recently been formed to go over the investigation results and further look into the fire.

And the families of those who died continue to wait. If given the chance, Weekes said he would tell the defendants, which include insurance company representatives, Civil Defense officials and Villaggio mall management:

“We’re adhering to Qatari law and Qatari justice. Show respect to the families, show respect to the dead and show respect to the court. Turn up, have your day in court and let the court decide if you’re guilty or not.”

UPDATE: The parents have issued a statement about the delays, saying they will continue to fight for answers:

The world is watching this legal process. The world is asking questions. The world is waiting to see Qatari justice stand up for those innocents that died so cruelly. It is time now for those answers…

If we can’t get answers from the courts we will continue to fight every day to get the answers we deserve, and the answers you and the world need to know so our children did not die in vain.

But at least some of the parents have also expressed an interest in settling the matter with the Qatari government out of court.

In a recent post on their children’s memorial Facebook page, Martin and Jane Weekes appealed to the New Zealand Prime Minister to talk to the Emir:

To date, the Government of the State of Qatar has yet to offer any of the families a path to justice, including a fair and just financial settlement. We must rebuild our lives, and we must move forward. You can help us by contacting His Highness the Amir of Qatar and appeal to his sense of humanity and generosity. He can spare us the awful prospect of a trial and the embarrassment of an exposé on how the Qatari civil defense system failed to protect our children.

Read the full statement from the parents regarding the trial below.


Credit: Photo by Omar Chatriwala

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