Ex-Al Jazeera Children’s Channel head makes first court appearance

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With reporting from Riham Sheble

Former Al Jazeera Children’s Channel (JCC) manager Mahmoud Bouneb, along with two of his colleagues, appeared in a criminal court in Doha today, more than a year after they lost their jobs and a travel ban was imposed against them.

But no charges were read against the trio, which included JCC’s former director of programming Malika Alouane, a Moroccan and Bouneb’s wife; and former cost controlling manager Haitham Qudaih, a Palestinian. Bouneb is Canadian-Tunisian.

The trial was adjourned until next month at the request of both JCC and the defendants. JCC, which according to UAE-based newspaper the National reaches some 50 million households, is funded by Qatar Foundation.

JCC’s lawyer asked for the postponement to petition the public prosecutor’s decision to not allow the company to sue two additional former employees.

The lawyer also said that JCC will be demanding QR200 million in compensation for the the financial harm caused to the company because of the defendants’ actions – which have not yet been articulated in court.

The defendants’ lawyers asked for more time so that the court documents presented by JCC could be translated from English to Arabic.

Bouneb’s lawyer told Doha News that it was too early to comment on the case. Bouneb, however, said that whatever the accusations, he and his colleagues were “totally innocent.” He added that he has not been able to leave Qatar since a travel ban was imposed on him on Sept. 27, 2011.

Soured relations

According to the National, Bouneb left his job working for the chairman of the board at Al Jazeera News (now Al Jazeera Media Network) to become the executive general manager of JCC in early 2003. The channel formally launched in September 2005, and has won awards for producing children’s programming for the Arab world.  

In November 2011, Digital TV Europe reported that Bouneb and 30 senior members of JCC had been dismissed from the channel. It said:

The sacked staff say that no official reason was given for their dismissal, but it is understood that the country’s public prosecutor will pursue a case alleging some form of mismanagement against Bouneb and seven other staff…Sources said that the decision was a complete surprise to Bouneb and his team, who had just had their latest five-year plan and budget agreed and signed off.

Qatar Foundation has not commented publicly on the lawsuits.

The court will hear more about the case on March 20.

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo courtesy of Friends to Free Mahmoud Bouneb on Facebook

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