Five handed jail terms over deadly Doha mall blaze

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Last year's fire at Villaggio Mall (Credit: Twitter).

Last year's fire at Villaggio Mall (Credit: Twitter).

A Qatari court has sentenced five people, among them the emirate’s envoy to Belgium, to six years in prison over “negligence” that caused a fatal shopping mall blaze last year.

The five were convicted on Thursday of negligence, that resulted in the death of 19 people including 13 children and two firefighters, at the Villaggio shopping mall in May, Al Jazeera reported on its website.

Four defendants received six-year jail terms, while a fifth received a five-year term. All five are currently out on appeal, and will remain out of custody until the appeals process is completed, the news website said.

Court officials told Al Jazeera the appeals process was expected to last between eight and 12 months.

Those convicted include two co-owners of the nursery and daycare centre which was engulfed by the flames, and members of the management of the mall.

Sheikh Ali Bin Jassim Al Thani, one of the co-owners, is also currently Qatar's ambassador to Belgium, while Iman al-Kuwari, the other co-owner, is the daughter of Qatar's culture minister.

Two other defendants, including the mall's assistant manager and head of security, were cleared of all charges, Al Jazeera said.

Among the dead children included the two-year old Weekes triplets from New Zealand, as well as victims from Canada, Egypt, the US, Spain and South Africa.

Investigators had said last year that the fire that broke out next to the unlicensed Gympanzee nursery was caused by an electrical fault.

Delays in criminal proceedings over the Villaggio Mall case have also meant that family of the deceased teachers in South Africa and the Philippines have been unable to claim compensation over their deaths.

The General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation Bernadette Segol has written to the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy to raise concerns over the handling of the case.

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Posted by: Gabriel

Let this tragedy be the catalyst for very strict OH&S regulations that ensure the safety of Qatar's residents.

Very sad to hear of such a tragic event.

Posted by: Paul

First of all, my deepest condolences to victims? families.
I am very sad to know about the way this case has been treated but unfortunately I am not surprised being a resident in Qatar for some years now.
When this shopping mall opened in 2006, one Sunday morning, there was a fire in cloths shop behind the Paul?s bakery. I was there and was shocked to see the way it was tacked: no fire alarms, no sprinklers, no evacuation procedure, no firefighting or security personnel taking over the situation. All I saw was chaos and people running in all directions with buckets of water and removing the clothes from the shop out to the public area. I took some picture of the incident and was kicked out of the Mall because I was taking pictures.
Unfortunately, as expected in Qatar, there were no lessons learnt from this incident.

Posted by: Paul

Back to this unfortunate accident, its investigation, and its causes and how the Qatar Government is dealing with this issue:
First of all, no building in Qatar has its design approved before a Qatar government entity approves the design, therefore if the design was at fault, that entity must be made responsible.
Second, no building in Qatar is open to the public without several inspections (fire services included) from a Qatar government entity, if there were non-compliances in the building itself (ventilation, fire services, emergency exits, etc?), that entity must also be made accountable for the accident.
Third, the Qatari government may have the Safety regulations in their laws but they fail to enforce them, just like the systematic abuse of laborers by agents and employers ? equally the Qatari government does not have the adequate and sufficient ability to enforce and to check adherence to these laws.
(cont'd)

Posted by: Paul

Forth, the Qatari government fails to listen to any complaint (no Ministry will ever answer a phone call or an email) or to take any action to address those complaints. It just not something part of their ?work? habits.
It is a fact that the whole country represents a risk to any of its citizens and visitors, as laws are not enforced and the Qatar government fails to address addressing this issue.
(cont'd)

Posted by: Paul

Besides the fact that there were so many innocent lives lost in this terrible accident, what is even sadder is that nothing substantial at Government and Policies levels were done in Qatar to avoid the next disaster.
The ultimate entity to be accounted, blamed and responsible for this accident is the Qatari government, and they have not change their attitude and law enforcement not they show any respect to the families? victims.
A message to Qatar: money is not all that counts in life!

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