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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Qatar Emir promises ‘justice’ over Villaggio Mall fire deaths

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Villaggio Mall
Villaggio Mall

Renewing a pledge he made after a deadly fire in Qatar that killed 19 people in 2012, Qatar’s Emir has said that he is “utterly committed to making sure those who are responsible will be held to account.”

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani apparently reiterated that promise to New Zealand’s Prime Minister this week, following a meeting in Istanbul.

John Key asked the Emir about the fire on behalf of New Zealanders Jane and Martin Weekes, parents of triplets killed in the blaze. The New Zealand Herald quotes Key as saying:

“He absolutely assured me he wanted to see justice done, that he is personally following the situation and is committed to seeing justice completed for the family. I hope the Weekes family can take some heart from that.”

Sheikh Tamim, who was Heir Apparent when the fire happened, met with several of the victims’ relatives shortly after the fire, promising swift accountability.

Abdelmasseih Antonios, who lost his two-year-old daughter Evana in the fire, previously told Doha News:

“The Emir of Qatar had promised us justice and that the power and wealth of any of the defendants would not obstruct it. We are still waiting. The fire that killed our children is still burning in our hearts and only justice can extinguish it. The most painful thing is that we feel that no one cares anymore.”

State of the case

During the lower criminal court proceedings, safety officers testified that Villaggio Mall was fined repeatedly since 2008 for using a highly toxic, flammable paint in its decorations.

Day after the Villaggio fire.
Day after the Villaggio fire.

The court also heard that sprinklers, which would have stopped the smoke, didn’t appear to be functioning at the time of the fire. Civil Defense officials added that Villaggio officials did not respond to requests from the fire alarm and sprinkler system companies to perform much-needed maintenance on the mall equipment, as recently as the week of the fire.

There was also a long debate about Gympanzee, the daycare where 13 children, four employees and two firefighters suffocated. Documentation showed that it was licensed by the Ministry of Business and Trade for six business activities, including as a playroom for children, rather than as a nursery.

Lower criminal court in Doha
Lower criminal court in Doha

Drawing on this evidence, a Doha court convicted five people of involuntary manslaughter about a year after the fire.

That included two mall officials, a government employee and the owners of Gympanzee. The convicts face five to six years in jail, but remain free as they appeal their sentences.

Over the past two years, that appeal has been moving at a glacial pace, much to the frustration of the victim’s relatives.

During the latest hearing last month, Raghda Kabbani, who lost her three-year-old daughter Hana in the fire, ended up leaving the courtroom mid-session in frustration.

“It started getting difficult for me to breathe, and I decided to walk out and leave court knowing that the mockery of justice will continue at the hands of lawyers,” she told Doha News.

In a statement this week, the Weekes thanked their prime minister for speaking to the Emir about the case.

They also called for the removal of Gympanzee co-owner Sheikh Ali Bin Jasim Bin Thani Al Thani from his post as Qatar’s ambassador to Belgium, which he has held since before the fire.

The couple said:

“While the Weekes understand that Al Thani and his wife are entitled to appeal their convictions, they do not believe it is appropriate for a person convicted of killing their children to be serving in a prestigious diplomatic post in the meantime.”

The next hearing will be held on May 10.

Thoughts?

24 COMMENTS

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MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Huma treatment of workers

Reform of sponsorship laws

Improved traffic safety

Justice for villagio victims

I think we have heard these all before and they are all going to happen “very soon”

I won’t hold my breath.

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Tamim keeps using this word “justice.” I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean what he thinks it means.

MrJames
MrJames
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

inconceivable 🙂

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago
Reply to  MrJames

Glad someone got the reference…. 🙂

Jim
Jim
6 years ago

Ah Villagio article, the traffic maker for DN.

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
6 years ago
Reply to  Jim

Deleting for being a non-productive attack. We welcome constructive criticism, but will continue to delete anonymous abuse.

Jim
Jim
6 years ago
Reply to  ShabinaKhatri

You’re not constructive criticizers, but you expect everyone to be when we mention DN? What’s wrong with saying that the Villagio case brings lots of traffic to this blog.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Jim

After a dip in clicks following stories involving angry birds, mall walkers and a sand storm it is a revenue blessing

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Justice can take time, I think we all understand that and everyone has a right of appeal.

The disgusting thing is that Qatar allows a convicted criminal to represent them in Belgium. The emir could suspend him or remove him from his post until the appeal is completed but has chosen not to do so.

Belgium also accepts a convicted criminal to operate as an ambassador in their country. Shameful

samesamebutdifferent
samesamebutdifferent
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

” everyone has a right of appeal.”

Yes.

But do they have the right to make a mockery of justice and repeatedly delay court proceedings so they can go on holiday?

From a DN article last year, quoting Jane Weeks – “Last time the defendants lawyer sought and was granted a two-month adjournment so he could go on holiday, this time he requested and was granted a four-and-a-half month adjournment for summer.”

In fact you commented on here 10 months ago

“Put them in jail until the appeal is concluded then see how quickly these people want it finished.

To allow defendants to postpone to go on holiday is the equivalent of spitting on the graves of the dead children. For the judge to allow he should lose his job, his job is to uphold justice in an impartial manner not to be nice to the convicted criminals. Those children will never see another holiday.”

Justice takes time but the defendants are brazenly, shamelessly taking the p1ss. This isn’t justice, it’s a 3rd world joke.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Actually agreed, put them in jail and then you will see how quickly this case gets resolved.

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

You’re agreeing with yourself? 🙂

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

In his defense, the questions he asks are often too hard to for the rest of us, so he has to show us how it’s done 😉

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

Proves I’m right in what I say!

et
et
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

He’s the o ly person who agrees with himself.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago

“But do they have the right to make a mockery of justice and repeatedly delay court proceedings so they can go on holiday?” Unfortunately, the legal system here miserably fails in dealing with people who do that. Especially if the people in question can afford good lawyers who can abuse the loopholes in the system, and God knows, there are more holes than system 😉

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
6 years ago

At best, it will be justice delayed…

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago

Looks like the big boss just doubled down .. We wait and see

Coco
Coco
6 years ago

What i remember about villagio is that all of us that were absolutely disgusted did absolutely nothing. My only weak and pathetic form of protest was to not go there again…although I was never a fan to begin with. I can’t even begin to imagine what those parents go through 🙁

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

It was nice to see a Prime Minister of a free and democratic country like New Zealand keeping the interests of his peopie at heart and wanting to know what is going on about this matter. Now the authorities will be aware that the world is still watching where this case is headed

Guest
Guest
6 years ago
Reply to  johnny wang

Justice delayed is justice denied.

AEC
AEC
6 years ago

There is a reason the New Zealand Prime Minister is visiting the UAE, Saudi and Kuwait but had to meet the Emir in Istanbul.

Skippy1111
Skippy1111
6 years ago

“Sheikh Tamim, who was Heir Apparent when the fire happened, met with
several of the victims’ relatives shortly after the fire, promising
swift accountability.”
That was in 2012, three years ago. Perhaps someone needs to explain to the Emir the definition of ‘swift’?

Lisa Clayton
Lisa Clayton
6 years ago

It would go a long way towards making people believe him, if the Emir would recall the Ambassador for now & assure that he & his wife are present in Qatar when/if they are ever sentenced.

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