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Court of Appeals and Cassation

Chantelle D'mello

Court of Appeals and Cassation

A Palestinian man convicted of human trafficking and involuntary manslaughter will petition Qatar’s highest court after failing to get his case thrown out in appeals, his lawyer has said.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal upheld an eight-year prison sentence for Adnan Mustafa Eid Muhammad. He stands accused of dumping the body of an Indonesian domestic worker outside Hamad General Hospital in 2014.

But the court exonerated his co-defendant, a Qatari woman also convicted of involuntary manslaughter by a lower court this year.

“She should be immediately released,” presiding judge Abd al-Rahman al-Sharafi said in court.

However, neither defendant has been in custody.

Muhammad’s lawyer, who along with the defendants did not appear in court this week, told Doha News that he plans to appeal the judgment to Qatar’s Court of Cassation.

What happened

The case involves an Indonesian woman who came to Qatar as a domestic worker.

Few details are known about the victim. The Indonesian embassy has not publicly commented on the case and was not immediately available today.

But defense lawyers argued in court that she fled an abusive sponsor and reached out to the Palestinian man for help.

He then put her in contact with the other defendant, who hired her but did not assume her sponsorship.

The Indonesian woman, who had a pre-existing respiratory condition, later fell ill and died.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

OSU Medical Center

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

When the Qatari woman called him for help, Muhammad brought the body of the deceased woman to Hamad General Hospital where he abandoned it next to an elevator.

Vulnerabilities

The case highlights how vulnerable domestic workers become if they attempt to leave their sponsors, Vani Saraswathi, an associate editor with Migrant-Rights.org, told Doha News.

She said it’s “very, very common” for domestic workers to be living and working in Qatar without a proper sponsorship or employment agreement. In some cases, they’ve chosen to leave an abusive sponsor or are being overworked, Saraswathi said.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Amnesty International

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In other cases, they’ve been “returned” to a recruiting agency that cannot find them another job.

Domestic workers caught in either scenario often want to stay in Qatar so they can earn money to pay back loans they took out to secure a job in the Gulf and support their families.

“They don’t want to go back to their home countries and they can’t legally find another job here,” Saraswathi said. “There just isn’t enough of a choice for workers who have invested time and money to migrate on work to legally leave an abusive employment situation and seek another job.”

This leaves domestic workers who choose to work without proper documents vulnerable to exploitation, she added.

For example, they could be forced to work without pay if their new employer learns of their legal status.

Or, if their original sponsor has filed a police complaint against the domestic worker for leaving, they risk being arrested when they try to access government services.

ID questions

During the Court of Appeal hearing, defense lawyers argued that sometime prior to the ill woman’s death, her boss took her to Hamad General Hospital, which turned her away because she was unable to produce valid ID.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Meento

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

It’s not clear if Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) requires its patients to produce government ID before providing treatment, as the lawyer argued in court. An HMC spokesperson has not responded to questions about the organization’s policies.

But during last month’s hearing, Muhammad’s lawyer argued that the hospital bore a share of the responsibility for the woman’s death.

“It’s inhumane to deny anyone treatment because they do not have a form of ID on them,” he said.

If Muhammad’s appeal is unsuccessful, he will face deportation after serving his jail term.

Thoughts?

Court of Appeals and Cassation

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Court of Appeals and Cassation

In an angry outburst yesterday, a man facing the death penalty for the murder of British teacher Lauren Patterson has accused prosecutors of tampering with evidence presented to the appeals court.

At particular issue appears to be selective editing of a video reenactment that supposedly represents Badr Hashim al-Jabar’s account of what happened the night the woman died.

The video, which was previously presented in a 2014 lower court hearing, was filmed under the prosecutor’s supervision several days after al-Jabar was arrested. It showed the defendant taking investigators through a villa and asserting that he stabbed Patterson in self-defense during a struggle.

Badr Hashim Khamis Abdullah Al-Jabar

Via Alison Patterson

Badr Hashim Khamis Abdullah al-Jabar

But in court yesterday, al-Jabar said the re-enactment was filmed multiple times, and that the version played in court showed the prosecutor’s narrative, rather than his version of events.

“The video is not the same!” al-Jabar shouted in Arabic at the prosecutor from inside a glass prisoner’s box at the Court of Appeals. “I swear by God it isn’t the same. If you’re a Muslim, put your hand on the Quran and swear by it that it’s the same video (and not edited).”

The prosecutor responded by rejecting the suggestion that the video was edited.

Fielding a question from the judge, the prosecutor added that he never instructed the defendant to act out a specific narrative, but rather al-Jabar’s own account of events.

Ongoing hearings

Patterson, 24, was last seen alive leaving a La Cigale nightclub in October 2013 with al-Jabar and his friend, Mohamed Abdallah Hassan Abdul Aziz.

Her burned remains were found hours later in the desert.

Flowers laid where Lauren Patterson's remains were found.

Alison Patterson

Flowers laid where Lauren Patterson\’s remains were found.

In 2014, a criminal court sentenced al-Jabar to death for Patterson’s murder and handed down a three-year prison sentence to Abdul Aziz for helping his friend burn Patterson’s body, as well as damaging and erasing evidence.

Abdul Aziz has since served his sentence and been released.

Qatar’s Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s verdict in 2015. However, earlier this year, the ruling was vacated by the Court of Cassation, which ordered a new trial.

Yesterday was the third scheduled hearing in the retrial.

Al-Jabar’s lawyer spent much of yesterday’s hearing attempting to cast doubt on the validity of the statements his client gave to investigators. He also suggested that Patterson was drunk and acted erratically the night she died.

Solitary confinement

He said al-Jabar was held in solitary confinement for 23 days before confessing to stabbing Patterson and was prevented from speaking to a lawyer or seeing his family during that time.

“This was punishment and coercion enough for the defendant to say anything the prosecutor wanted,” the defense lawyer told the court.

The attorney argued that this tainted confession also affected the video reenactment. He highlighted how the prosecutor can be heard at one point on the recording instructing al-Jabar to “narrate to us what you told me during the investigation.”

Alison Patterson with her daughter Lauren

Alison Patterson

Alison Patterson with her daughter Lauren

The defense lawyer told the court yesterday that his client should have been free to act out his narrative of events as they “actually happened.”

While the defense lawyer claimed that prosecutors had filmed another version of the reenactment that has not been seen in court, he did not elaborate on its contents except to say that it shows al-Jabar acted in self-defense.

The prosecutor rejected all of the defense lawyer’s suggestions, including dismissing the claim that al-Jabar was held in solitary confinement for more than three weeks before he confessed.

Yesterday marked the first time that the defense lawyer argued in court that the video reenactment was selectively edited.

Alison Patterson

Shabina S. Khatri / Doha News

Alison Patterson

Patterson’s mother, Alison – who flew to Qatar from the UK for the hearing – questioned why this claim was not presented in an earlier hearing.

“I feel that the defense’s arguments change all the time,” she told Doha News. “What will they think up next time?”

Alison Patterson also expressed dismay that the hearing was forced to come to an abrupt halt because the court room was not equipped with a large screen and projector.

The trial is set to resume on Oct. 9 in a larger courtroom that has video equipment.

Thoughts?

Court of Appeals

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Court of Appeals

The defense attorney for a man appealing a seven-year human trafficking sentence has asked a Qatar court to show “mercy and leniency” toward his client.

Next month, judges will issue a verdict in the case, which involved the death of an Indonesian domestic worker whose body was dumped at Hamad General Hospital in 2014.

Earlier this year, two people were convicted of involuntary manslaughter by a lower court and sentenced to a year in jail following the woman’s death.

One of them, a Palestinian man in his 50s, was additionally found guilty of human trafficking and ordered to be deported after serving his sentence.

Neither defendant has served jail time yet.

The case

Few details are known about the victim, except that she arrived in Qatar to work as house help.

She apparently fled an abusive sponsor and reached out to the Palestinian man for help. He put her in contact with the other defendant, a Qatari woman, who hired her but did not assume her sponsorship.

The Indonesian woman had a preexisting respiratory illness and, at one point, became so ill that the Qatari woman took her to Hamad General Hospital’s emergency department.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

OSU Medical Center

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, the court was told that the domestic worker was denied medical attention because she was unable to produce any ID at the hospital.

She later became seriously ill and died in the home of the Qatari woman, who called the first defendant for help.

He drove over and, after confirming that the woman was indeed dead, brought the body to Hamad General Hospital where he abandoned it next to an elevator.

Negligence

During today’s closing arguments, the defense lawyer for the man said that his client was innocent on all counts.

The attorney argued that there was nothing the man could have done to save the woman’s life and suggested that Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) – as well as the woman herself – bore some responsibility.

If what the court heard about the woman being turned away from the emergency department is true, the lawyer said, “the hospital should be held responsible. It’s inhumane to deny anyone treatment because they do not have a form of ID on them.”

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Meento

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

An HMC spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions from Doha News about the institution’s policy of providing treatment to patients without ID.

The lawyer also noted that his client did not have a medical background and attended to the woman as soon as he was notified by the other defendant.

“What else was he supposed to do?” the lawyer asked.

Finally, the attorney suggested that the Indonesian woman could have done more to help herself.

She had previously borrowed QR100 from a coworker to purchase medicine and, if she realized her condition was worsening, could have asked to use her colleague’s mobile phone to call an ambulance.

“If the victim had a history of this disease, was an adult and did not pursue treatment for herself, then she has also played a role in this tragedy,” the lawyer told the court.

The defense lawyer for the other defendant did not present any oral arguments and instead filed a written submission to the court to challenge the manslaughter conviction.

Human trafficking

For his part, the prosecutor asked the court to uphold the original sentence – including the human trafficking conviction. He argued that the defendant had “exploited” the victim by putting her to work after she fled her sponsor.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Ashley/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

He also highlighted how the man “dumped” the woman’s corpse at the hospital. However, the defendant was not charged with any crime specifically related to his treatment of the woman’s body.

“All of these actions would not be committed by someone with a semblance of humaneness,” the prosecutor said.

The prosecutor further suggested that the defendant was running an underground recruitment agency for domestic workers and paid for a home where the women lived.

However, the defendant’s lawyer noted that a witness from the Ministry of Interior has testified that the investigation produced no evidence of human trafficking.

The attorney also noted that it was the victim who asked the defendant for help finding a job and that his client did not force the woman to work.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Adam Bermingham/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, Qatar law says it is “irrelevant” if human trafficking victims consent to working.

The lawyer concluded by asking the court to show leniency towards his client because he is the primary caregiver to his children as well as his sister, who has Down syndrome.

Additionally, the Palestinian defendant was born in Qatar – to a father who was also born here – which the lawyer said raises questions about how he could be forced to leave after serving his prison sentence.

“Where would he be deported to?” the lawyer asked.

A verdict is scheduled to be delivered on June 20.

Thoughts?