Three police officers in Qatar were shot and wounded by a man armed with an automatic rifle earlier this year, a Doha court heard this morning.
The man had stormed a police station southwest of Al Rayyan demanding that two of his sons be released from custody, witnesses testified.
The three family members fled the station together and led police on a high-speed chase that ended with officers exchanging gunfire with the father, who is currently on trial.
Extra security officers were stationed inside the courtroom and searched the bags of those attending the hearing.
However, the man on trial, who is in custody, declined to attend today’s hearing, according to a note delivered by a prison guard.
No defense lawyer cross-examined witnesses or made themselves known to the court during the 45-minute morning session.
Today’s hearing follows reports of a shooting on the under-construction orbital expressway, which sparked questions about gun usage in Qatar.
It also prompted a warning from the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) in Qatar, an advisory council for U.S companies overseas, to international companies operating here.
The first witness to testify was a 32-year-old first lieutenant with Qatar’s internal security force, Lekhwiya.
He said he responded to a complaint from a construction company that its workers were being harassed by one of the defendant’s sons.
The officer testified that the agitator’s two younger brothers arrived at the scene of the incident as their sibling was being arrested. Their efforts to aid their older brother led police to take them into custody as well, the Lekhwiya officer said.
While the older brother was taken to a Lekhwiya facility, his younger brothers – one of whom was a minor and not handcuffed – were brought to the police station for Mukaynis, which is located off Salwa Road east of the Aqua Park and the Al Udeid Air Base.
Shortly after the siblings were detained, their father learned of the incident. He apparently loaded at least two guns – identified by witnesses as Kalashnikov rifles – into his car and drove to the police station.
When he arrived, the Lekhwiya officer who testified today was in the rear parking lot behind the building with the police station’s supervisor.
The two officers heard shouting and screaming and ran to the front of the building. The Lekhwiya officer said he saw the defendant standing inside the entrance, pointing his gun at officers and yelling, “I want my children!”
As the station supervisor attempted to calm the man, an Al Fazaa officer – who had arrived at the station on an unrelated matter just as the incident began to unfold – grabbed the man’s gun, causing it to discharge twice.
Witnesses said one of the bullets hit the ground and sent fragments flying. The Lekhwiya officer was hit, saying he felt “heat in my arm,” but was not seriously injured.
The station supervisor was struck in the leg, as was the Al Fazaa officer who later told the court that he spent some eight months in recovery.
The Lekhwiya witness said he drew his own gun and aimed it at the defendant, who immediately responded by pointing his own firearm at the officer.
Both men subsequently lowered their weapons as the cop tried to calm the man down by telling him that his sons were fine and that there was no reason to make the situation any worse, the court heard.
With neither of the siblings inside a holding cell, the youngest of the two – who had not been handcuffed – ran out of the station to retrieve another Kalashnikov from his father’s vehicle.
He returned and threatened the police officers in the station before the three males left the building and drove away at a “very high speed,” the Lekhwiya witness said.
They were followed by police, although the officer was unable to answer the judge’s questions about how far they traveled or how long the pursuit lasted before the vehicle carrying the defendant and his sons was stopped.
The Lekhwiya officer said the man exited the vehicle and began firing his gun without taking aim at any particular target, prompting police to return fire.
Today’s testimony did not indicate how the gunfight ended, beyond that it led to the three family members being taken into custody.
While lawyers and prosecutors generally pose the bulk of the questions during criminal trials in Qatar, only the presiding judge addressed the witnesses during this morning’s hearing.
Both the Lekhwiya and Al Fazaa officers were asked what the defendant’s intention was in entering the station with a gun, whether his actions were premeditated and if he could have murdered someone.
In their respective responses, both men said the man’s motive was to terrorize the police and leave with his sons.
The Lekhwiya officer stated:
“I cannot conclusively say if he intentionally fired the gun or not. But entering the police station with a gun in his hand was planned.”
The Al Fazaa officer noted that he observed that the defendant was keeping his finger on the gun’s trigger and that the rifle’s safety mechanism was disengaged.
The next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 19, when the court is scheduled to hear testimony from the police station supervisor.
The judge also requested that the Al Fazaa officer submit a medical report documenting his gunshot injury and that the defendant be notified and given the opportunity to attend the hearing.
Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that the US Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, did not issue a warning, but rather OSAC in Qatar.