Editor’s note: Several local journalists attended yesterday’s court hearing. At the end of the session, the judge instructed reporters to submit their stories for approval prior to publishing. The reporters struck a deal in which one journalist submitted the major talking points of what happened.
Judge Abdullah Al Emadi approved most of the reporting, but said one part must be omitted because it “was not relevant to the case.” Doha News will adhere to the court ban on this information for now.
With reporting from Riham Sheble
During the session yesterday – the second so far – charges were read out against the four residents, who were given a chance to say whether they pleaded guilty or not guilty.
The prosecutor listed three counts:
- Involuntary manslaughter (also known as accidental murder) of 11 people due to the negligence and recklessness of not carrying out their duties diligently;
- Involuntary/accidental harm inflicted on the injured, which initially tallied at 35, but now stands at 42 people; and
- The damaging of property and vehicles belonging to others.
One of the men on trial is a foreman for Woqod (an Indian expat), one is a supervisor for the Qatar Gas Group (an expat from Egypt), and two others are Turkish employees who worked for Istanbul Restaurant, where the blast originated.
They were initially jailed following the blast in late February, but ordered released on their own recognizance during the first court hearing last month. However, they are not allowed to leave the country while the case proceeds.
The first two defendants denied the charges in court today, with the Woqod employee speaking through a translator.
However, the two Turkish defendants did not speak English or Arabic, and no Turkish translators were present in the court, nor any officials from the Turkish embassy. The judge therefore adjourned the trial to May 21 to get in touch with the embassy, and requested that they supply a translator.
Speaking to Doha News today, a senior Turkish embassy official said they will send a translator once they heard from the court. He added that no representatives have been in court because they are short-staffed on employees who speak Arabic, the language that the court proceedings are conducted in.
Additionally, he said embassy officials were not asked to be present during the interrogation of the two Turkish defendants, but that prosecutors typically have their own translators during this time.
Defense lawyers also asked for access to the CCTV footage on the day of the blast.
In the previous session, the judge had asked for the injured parties to attend the court hearings. Five men injured in the blast did appear, and were asked to present medical documents in Arabic stating the extent of their injuries.
Any other people injured in the blast are also invited to attend the hearings and present their documents.
The explosion took place inside of a petrol station complex in Duhail (near Landmark Mall) on Feb. 27. The petrol station remains closed today, and several businesses are in the process of repairing their shops.
Istanbul Restaurant was closed and vacant at the time of the accident, and the majority of those killed and injured were eating at the nearby Tasty eatery.
Officials from the Ministry of Interior previously stated that the blast was caused by a pizza oven that was not properly turned off.
The subsequent leaking liquid petroleum gas (LPG), which is supplied by Woqod, was apparently ignited by the electrical current in the restaurant’s refrigerator, officials said at the time.
Both the baker at the restaurant and an accountant who is responsible for locking up the eatery at night are on trial for this alleged oversight.
The Woqod supervisor is charged with failing to tell the company’s distribution department to stop the restaurant’s gas supply as maintenance work was carried out there; and the Qatar Gas supervisor allegedly connected the restaurant’s new gas line without seeking a safety compliance certificate.