After failing to attend four previous hearings, the owner of the crèche at the centre of a fire at Qatar’s Villaggio Mall, which killed 19 peoplein May, is today expected to be escorted by police to the latest criminal hearing into the matter.
A day after the six-month anniversary of the fire, which killed 19 people including two-year old triplets from New Zealand, criminal proceedings are finally set to get under way into the cause of the tragedy, the Australian Associated Press reported.
Hearings had previously been delayed four times when Iman Al Kuwari, owner of the Gympanzee daycare facility, which was the site of much of the damage, failed to appear at proceedings.
Earlier this month, judges ordered police to escort Al Kuwari, who is the wife of the Qatari ambassador to Belgium, to today’s hearing in order to make sure she attends.
The Villaggio mall in Doha partially reopened in September after a 115-day closure, much to the anger of relatives of the victims.
Martin and Jane Weekes, whose two-year old triplets Lillie, Willsher and Jackson died in the fire, said in a statement published by newspapers in New Zealand: "Whilst we understand that this day had to come, we are angry that not one representative from Villaggio or the government has had the respect to contact us in advance to explain this decision.
"We are angered that Villaggio has not even had the courtesy to invite us to grieve for our children in private at the location they died. The owners and the management should be ashamed."
They added: "Villaggio is reopening before the owners of the mall and Gympanzee have even been before the Qatari Courts... Whilst we accept the right of Villaggio to reopen we also assert our rights as the families of the victims of this crime. Those individuals and entities responsible must face justice."