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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