Defendants in Qatar mall fire fail to appear in court

Thirteen children, including two-year old triplets, died in the Villaggio Mall fire in May
Defendants in Qatar mall fire fail to appear in court
By Claire Valdini
Tue 11 Sep 2012 11:24 AM

Two defendants charged over the Qatar mall fire, which killed 13 children including two-year old triplets, failed to turn up to their first court hearing, it has been reported.

Representatives from the Gympanzee daycare centre and the local council did not appear at the first hearing for the trial, scheduled for the first week of September, Doha News reported.

An unnamed source said attempts to reach the defendants had failed because “their phones were off”. The name of the defendants was not clear but shortly after the fire police arrested five people, including the daughter of Qatar’s Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage.

Iman Al-Kuwari, who ran the Gympanzee childcare facility in the retail centre, was arrested along with the mall’s manager, assistant manager and the assistant director of security.

The hearing has been postponed until Oct, said Doha News.

Investigators in June said faulty electrical wiring in a fluorescent light caused the deadly fire in the Villaggio Mall in May.

Children trapped in the neighbouring Gympanzee nursery were not discovered until half an hour after firefighters arrived at the scene. The unlicensed nursery did not meet required safety conditions, Qatar state news agency reported, citing investigators.

Investigators found a “lack of adherence to laws, systems, and measures by all concerned parties to different degrees. This includes adherence to design, license and safety conditions, which contributed to the Villaggio catastrophe,” said the report.

Among the victims were Zealand triplets, Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, four teachers and two firefighters. Other victims in the blaze included expats from Spain, Japan, the Philippines, Benin and Arab countries not including Qatar, officials said.

Villaggio, a 360,000 sq m retail centre, opened in 2006. It was named one of the world’s most luxurious malls by Forbes magazine in 2008. The centre features 220 retail, entertainment and dining outlets.

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