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Lower criminal court in Doha

Shabina S. Khatri

Lower criminal court in Doha

An Egyptian national accused of killing his wife in their Qatar home late last year broke down in tears during his murder trial yesterday, insisting he had attempted to revive the women while waiting for paramedics to arrive.

However, that contradicted testimony from a paramedic who testified in court on Thursday that there was no evidence the defendant had tried to perform first aid or CPR.

When asked by the defendant’s lawyer if the man pleaded with them to save his wife, the paramedic said no and that the man had appeared calm and composed.

The paramedic said he found the victim covered with a blanket in the hallway. She had a deep wound in her head, bruises on her arm, a black eye and blue discolouration on her limbs, he added.

The court was told at a previous hearing that the woman died from internal bleeding due to repeated beatings, with bruising suggesting that these attacks were “repeated and severe,” Al Raya reported last month.

For illustrative purposes only

Adam Bermingham/Flickr

For illustrative purposes only

A medical examiner also testified the victim had first-degree burns on 40 percent of her body. According to Al Raya, the defendant said his wife poured boiling water on herself but later admitted that he subsequently doused her with boiling water as well.

During last month’s hearing, a police officer testified that the defendant admitted that he and his wife had an argument that led to him beating her with his hands and, later, a vacuum cleaner rod.

The officer said he was struck at how there were no signs of a struggle.

The following day, police investigators returned to the house and found that blood had been cleaned from the hallway floor and walls, the bathroom, kitchen and bedroom.

No death sentence requested

During yesterday’s hearing, the defense lawyer highlighted how his client – who is charged with intentional murder – was the one who called paramedics for help.

The attorney also questioned a second police officer who arrived at the scene 10 minutes after paramedics about his interactions with the defendant.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Ministry of Interior

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In contrast to the paramedic’s testimony, this officer said the man – who was standing outside his house with his mother when police arrived – was crying and appeared too distraught to provide a statement to police.

The court also heard from a lawyer representing the victim’s father. During murder trials in Qatar, it’s common for the victim’s family to be asked if they favor the death penalty if the defendant is found guilty.

The lawyer said the victim’s father did not wish “retribution” and was asked by the court to produce a full list of the victim’s surviving relatives.

The trial is scheduled to resume on April 26 with the testimony of another police officer.

Thoughts?

Lower criminal court in Doha

Shabina S. Khatri

Lower criminal court in Doha

Four Indian fishermen arrested by Qatar’s coast guard last month have been convicted by a Doha court of three misdemeanors and fined QR20,000 each.

L. Jerald, 38; R. Thirumurugan, 27; P. Vaseegan, 33; and the 38-year-old boat’s captain R. Seelan were each convicted of entering Qatar’s waters without a permit, fishing in Qatar’s sea without a permit and entering the country unlawfully.

The men were working for a Saudi sponsor when their boat was boarded by Qatar authorities shortly after 1am on Jan. 7.

Boats at Al Ruwais harbor.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Boats at Al Ruwais harbor.

After spending five nights in jail, they signed a document written in Arabic that they believe was an admission that they had strayed into Qatar’s territorial waters.

The convicted men could not be reached for comment following Wednesday’s hearing.

However, the head of an India-based NGO that advocates on behalf of migrant fishermen told Doha News that it would be “very difficult” for the men – who said they make between QR200 and QR500 a week, depending on their catch – to raise the money.

Justin Antony, the founder and president of the International Fishermen Development Trust, said it’s typically up to the sponsor to pay court-imposed fines when their employees illegally cross into another country’s territorial waters.

Their Saudi sponsor was present for Wednesday’s hearing, but declined to speak to Doha News outside court.

It’s not clear if he will pay the fine or appeal the verdict, which would likely extend the fishermen’s unplanned stay in Qatar.

Dozens arrested since 2012

The men have been confined to their boat in an Al Ruwais harbor since being released from jail last month.

Al Ruwais harbor.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Al Ruwais harbor.

They spoke to Doha News in January, providing insight into an industry that employs thousands of low-income expats in Qatar.

Migrant fishermen are generally not covered by the labor laws of Gulf countries, which leaves them without job security or a regular salary.

This means they depend on the quantity and quality of their catch to support themselves and their families back home, as well as pay off the debts they incurred to obtain a job in the Gulf.

Because they work in a region where fish stocks are declining, expat fishermen are driven to stray beyond the country boundaries, according to a member of the Qatari Coast Guard stationed at Al Ruwais:

“The issue is that most of these men work under commission, but there is less fish on their side of the waters, so they sneak in here to harvest some of the abundance of fish. That’s not just trespassing, it’s stealing,” the officer told Doha News last month.

At least three dozen migrant Indian fishermen have been arrested by Qatar’s Coast Guard since 2012. Additionally, at least one person has died during patrols of the country’s maritime boundaries.

Similarly, dozens of expat fishermen working in Qatar have also been arrested and held in neighboring countries, including Iran.

Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Doha’s criminal court has ordered fines and compensation payments totalling more than QR1 million in recent weeks following at least five separate trials involving construction worker deaths in Qatar.

Three of the men died after falling from scaffolding or, in one case, a pit at an under-construction shopping center.

While it’s unclear if the cluster of cases is indicative of more stringent enforcement efforts or merely a coincidence owing to court scheduling, human rights activists say they hope the sanctions will prompt other construction companies to take workplace safety more seriously.

“If workers have been killed on worksites … those deaths need to be investigated,” Amnesty International researcher Mustafa Qadri told Doha News.

Experts such as Qadri said many large multinational companies operating in Qatar, including those working on high-profile projects such as stadiums for the 2022 World Cup, adopt stringent safety standards.

Construction at Khalifa Stadium

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Khalifa Stadium, for illustrative purposes only.

However, Amnesty and other organizations have long documented the comparatively dismal safety record of smaller, less prominent projects where workers sometimes lack adequate training, are not given helmets or are forced to purchase their own safety gloves.

Qadri said criminally prosecuting negligent construction companies would likely have “a very strong impact” on the industry’s safety record. He argued that businesses avoid crossing legal “red lines” when they know rules are strictly enforced.

“When Qatar applies the law, people don’t flout the law,” he said.

Cases

Recently released court documents paint a partial picture of several cases that concluded within the last month or so.

  • On Dec. 30, 2015, Ashtar Trading Co. was fined QR100,000 and ordered to pay QR200,000 in blood money compensation to the inheritors of a deceased laborer who died at work. No details were available about the circumstances of the man’s death, and the company could not be reached for comment.
  • The same day, Tanmiyya Qatari Co. was fined QR50,000 and three individuals were each ordered to pay QR10,000 for negligence after a worker on a scaffold fell to his death. During the trial, witnesses testified that the man had started work before the arrival of the foreman and was not wearing a helmet.
Lower criminal court in Doha

Shabina S. Khatri

Lower criminal court in Doha

  • In late 2015, two construction companies working on a shopping center were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, fined QR10,000 each and ordered to jointly pay QR200,000 in blood money compensation to a deceased worker’s family. The individual died at night after falling into a pit in a poorly lit area that lacked safety barricades and signage. The court heard the worker was also not wearing appropriate clothing.
  • Also in late 2015, the court convicted a contracting company of involuntary manslaughter, fined it QR200,000 and ordered it to pay QR200,000 in blood money compensation to the family of an Asian man who died after falling from a scaffold on what was supposed to be his day off. Additionally, a foreman was found guilty of negligence because he wasn’t present on the construction site and ordered to pay a QR10,000 fine.

In a fifth case, the manager of a construction company was acquitted on charges of negligence late last year for failing to set up sufficient barriers and warning signs at a large project on Al Shamal Road.

A worker fell into a pit at the construction site and suffered fractures to his neck and left arm. However, the court found that the man put himself in harm’s way by talking on his cell phone while he walked and failed to pay adequate attention to his surroundings.

Earlier this year, construction firms were fined following fatalities on projects at the Pearl-Qatar and Old Airport.

Labor inspectors

While Amnesty’s Qadri said he welcomed the criminal investigations into these cases, he said detailed and open reporting on workplace injuries and deaths is still needed so experts can identify solutions to prevent such incidents from happening in the first place.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Muhammad Kamran Qureshi/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

While government investigators “blacklisted” hundreds of firms last year, banning them from applying for government contracts or hiring additional staff, no details were provided about the nature of the labor law transgressions.

Qatar has been gradually been hiring additional labor inspectors and recently announced that it now employs 350 individuals. Qadri previously called the size of the workforce “obviously inadequate” given the amount of construction taking place across the country.

But he added this week that the robustness of inspections and the strength of enforcement powers are more important than the sheer number of labor inspectors.

“The mere fact that there are 350 inspectors is nothing something to applaud.”

Thoughts?