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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Instead of verdict, more delays for JCC trio on trial in Qatar


Doha court

Three former Al Jazeera Children’s Channel executives who have been on trial for financial mismanagement have had their case postponed until October, after appearing in court twice for an expected verdict.

The defendants are JCC’s former executive general manager Mahmoud Bouneb, a Tunisian-Canadian, and his Moroccan wife, the station’s former programming director Malika Alouane, as well as Palestinian expat Haitham Qudaih, the ex-cost controller.

They and roughly 30 others were fired from the channel in September 2011. Since then, the three have not been able to leave Qatar, and in February of 2013 were charged with mismanaging approximately QR3.1 million (US$851,460) over eight years.

Mahmoud Bouneb

JCC was formerly under Qatar Foundation, but now falls under the auspices of Al Jazeera Media Network. Al Jazeera referred requests for comment to JCC, which has not publicly remarked on the case.

Last week, the defendants and a host of supporters, including the Tunisian ambassador to Qatar, filled the courtroom, expecting to hear their verdict. The group had expressed hope after in a rare legal move, they were allowed to address the court and present evidence in their defense during a hearing in late May.

However, while Judge Abdullah Al Emadi announced several court decisions last week, he said the JCC case verdict would be postponed for seven more days to “complete deliberations.”

Yesterday, Al Emadi decided to delay the decision further, saying that a technical committee from Qatar Radio and Qatar Television would be formed to examine whether overspending took place on any JCC programs during Bouneb’s eight-year tenure.

The court also ordered the defendants to pay QR10,000 as preliminary fees for the committee to start its work. The money should be deposited at court when the committee will be appointed on July 17.

The panel can listen to testimony from any witnesses and defendants, and findings must be presented under oath on Oct. 1.

According to official court documents:

“If the committee decides that the actual cost of production does not match the documented figure, the committee has to specify what the cost of production at that time would have been, the discrepancy in figures, who would be responsible for that, evidence for that responsibility, how this discrepancy happened, and all the harms that were caused the plaintiff (JCC) in the process.”

What’s next

In previous hearings, witnesses from the Qatar National Audit Bureau and accounting firm Ernst & Young cleared the trio of any criminal wrongdoing. The E&Y report stated:

“The committee concludes that what was possible to note from the inspection was that there are some administrative misconducts.

However, there is no way to say that the Channel’s employees, whose names appear in the claim, have committed any embezzlement crimes or harmed intentionally the Channel funds.”

While Bouneb faces charges of overspending on programs, his wife’s accusations centered around her housing allowance, while Qudaih’s involved usage of the company credit card.

The three said they have not been able to work in Doha since they were fired in 2011, and the financial toll has been growing.

Speaking to Doha News, the defendants expressed concern that the committee would ask for extensions to complete their task of analyzing all the programming, which Bouneb said amounted to 3,000 television hours of programming between 2005-2011.

In a statement, they said:

“We feel great anger and frustration as we were looking for closure. We respect the court decision although we do not understand the objectives behind it as JCC production and programming have been audited for about a year by the Prosecution, the National Audit Bureau and Ernst &Young’s experts who did not find any wrongdoing.

What is the use of another audit except gaining time? We simply do not feel right about this. We have already lost 3 years of our lives away from our loved ones. Isn’t it enough?”



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7 years ago

This is a prime example of why Qatar is struggling to recruit and retain high-quality professional expats.

Reading this would give virtually everyone thinking of coming to Qatar in a similar role very serious second thoughts.

7 years ago

Justice in Qatar is absolutely laughable. Even if they are found innocent they will not be able to sue for damages. They would have to prove that their accusers knowingly made a false accusation.

Law no (22) of 2004 Regarding Promulgating the Civil Code 22 / 2004

Article 205

1. Where a person causes damage in lawful defence of himself, his reputation or his property, or in lawful defence of another person or his reputation or property, such person shall not be liable for damages incurred by such defence, provided that such defence shall not exceed the extent reasonably necessary to prevent harm.
2. Where the defence exceeds reasonable bounds, such person shall be liable for damages incurred according to the requirements of justice.

Article 63

The exercise of a right shall be unlawful in any of the following circumstances:

If the desired interest by such use is unlawful;If such use is intended solely to cause damage to others;If the interests desired are disproportionate to the harm that will be suffered by others; orIf such use may cause unusually gross damage to third parties.

Article 63

The exercise of a right shall be unlawful in any of the following circumstances:
If the desired interest by such use is unlawful;
If such use is intended solely to cause damage to others;
If the interests desired are disproportionate to the harm that will be suffered by others; or
If such use may cause unusually gross damage to third parties.

Observant One
Observant One
7 years ago

What a joke. Ernst and young have conducted a forensic audit but now another committee is formed. To what purpose? Is it because after all the publicity they don’t want them to be found not guilty so another fishing expedition is launched. Really what do we expect if the authorities can’t stop someone speeding in a car can we really expect an ethical professional forensic fraud investigation. I think not. I feel much sorrow for the poor accused in this travesty of justice.

7 years ago

I think this shows the priorities of the Qatar justice system, alleged financial fraud is a 3 year prison sentence in Qatar even if you are found innocent. However being found guilty of being complicit in the death of 19 people in Villagio still means you can respect Qatar as an ambassador and leave the country any time you want with your wife who was also convicted. Not to mention the others who are still free. Shocking. Money is worth more than dead children.

johnny wang
johnny wang
7 years ago

If this is the helpless situation such well connected people who have been Directors and managers of prestigious institutions and organizations find themselves in then I shudder to think what will be the situation of lesser connected people who find themselves in similar situations and with very little resources to fall back on

7 years ago

what the article does not say is that no visa to enter Qatar was given to the lawyer defending the three people

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