Families of Villaggio victims await blood money payment

Flowers

Omar Chatriwala

Four months ago, a Doha court found five people guilty of involuntary manslaughter after 19 people died in a fire at Villaggio mall last year. Those convicted are appealing the verdict, which carries five to six years of jail time.

In the interim, their insurance companies were ordered to pay some QR200,000 in blood money compensation per victim.

But despite the judge’s ruling, and an enforcement order filed by the victims’ families in August, the payment has not been awarded. And though defendants were summoned to court yesterday to explain the delay, none of them turned up.

In the Gulf, blood money is an Islamic provision that must be paid if a judge finds a person guilty of causing death or injury to another person, either accidentally or intentionally.

Because the defendants did not attend court, a judge postponed the hearing over blood money to Nov. 14, a spokesman for the families said.

Speaking to Doha News, Martin Weekes, father of two-year-old triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher, expressed upset over the latest development:

“It’s incredibly disappointing that again those guilty of the deaths of our children & their teachers continue to disrespect them and the local justice system behaving as if neither exist.”

In an email to Doha News, another parent criticized Qatar’s courts following this week’s Supreme court ruling upholding a jail sentence for a local poet accused of inciting to overthrow the regime:

“It is astonishing and morally wrong that a Qatari poet can get 15 years imprisonment for writing a poem which some people may have taken offence, whilst on the other hand for people who have been responsible for the death of 19 people of which 13 were children , the punishment is 6 years in prison. Is this what they call the equitable Qatar Justice System?”

Legal challenge continues

In June, a panel of judges ruled that two Villaggio mall executives, the co-owners of the children’s daycare Gympanzee, where the 19 victims died, and an employee of the Ministry of Business and Trade were liable for the deaths of the victims. The deceased included 13 children and six adults – four Gympanzee employees and two firefighters.

Judges ordered blood money be paid, but deferred a request from the families’ lawyers for additional compensation in material and emotional damages to a civil court.

That case could be filed during or after the appeals are finished, Weekes said.

The first appeals hearing will include all five defendants, who remain out of jail during the process, and is set for next month.

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