With reporting from Riham Sheble
Responding to a request from defense attorneys, Qatar’s appeals court has decided to postpone the Villaggio Mall fire case for another four months, sparking disappointment and dismay among several family members of those who died in the May 2012 accident.
The latest delay comes a year after a lower court found five people liable for the 19 deaths, ordering them to serve up to six years in jail.
Those who were convicted include Sheikh Ali Bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s Ambassador to Belgium and Iman Al-Kuwari, daughter of Qatar’s culture minister, who are co-owners of the Gympanzee childcare facility in which 13 children, four employees and two firefighters died of smoke asphyxiation.
Neither attended yesterday’s hearing, and the court was told Al Thani was away on official diplomatic business while his wife was with him, looking after their children.
The others who face jail time are Villaggio mall owner Abdul Aziz Mohammed Al Rabban and manager Tzoulios Tzouliou, and Mansour Nasir Fazzaa al-Shahwani from the Ministry of Economy and Commerce.
During a court hearing yesterday, defense attorneys for the mall’s chairman and for the co-owners of Gympanzee both asked for the postponement, saying they still needed to cross-examine witnesses who had appeared at previous appeals hearings.
Lawyers for the insurance company responsible for paying blood money compensation to the families also supported a postponement. Only a few relatives have thus far been awarded the QR200,000 per victim compensation ordered by the lower court. The insurance company has asked that the rest await the appeals decision.
The judge granted the attorneys’ request and scheduled the next session for Oct. 27.
Speaking to Doha News, many of the families of the deceased said they were surprised and disappointed by the decision.
Several have been struggling to obtain closure following the loss of their loved ones due to the long court process.
Moeneeb Emraan, a South Afican expat and father of 18-month-old Omar Emraan, said:
“My wife and I are in total disbelief. This is a travesty of justice. How can we put our faith in this process?!”
Abd Elmasseih Antonios Mina Eskandar, father of 2-year-old Evana Antonios, said the latest court hearing only further stalled any progress made since an appellate hearing in April.
Speaking to Doha News, he said, as translated from Arabic into English:
“Are we supposed to trust that those who have been found guilty will ever be punished? Some of the defendants are powerful people and this works in their advantage. They enjoy being with their children and we were deprived of ours because of their mistakes.
A big fire that claims the lives of nineteen people, thirteen of whom were children, is handled with such carelessness and prolongation. From April 7th to October 27th (the next hearing) no progress will be made. Why have the defendants not been detained pending the verdict? They were already found guilty.”
And Jane Weekes, a New Zealander and mother of two-year-old triplets Lillie, Jackson & Willsher, said:
“Last time the defendants lawyer sought and was granted a two-month adjournment so he could go on holiday, this time he requested and was granted a four-and-a-half month adjournment for summer.
The defendants’ repetitive delays continue to distress the families of the victims. We have also been told that Iman Al Kuwari, the owner of Gympanzee didn’t attend court because she was caring for her children in Belgium. This makes am absolute mockery of the fact our children were killed whilst in her care.”
Push to oust journalists
Meanwhile, defense attorneys for the chairman of Villaggio argued that journalists should be banned from reporting on the fire hearings.
The director of Al Rayyan Municipality, who was mentioned in an Al Raya article last month after not turning up to two court sessions, agreed, saying he was being slandered by the press.
However, a judge responded that the court does not control what journalists write, and those who feel they have been slandered have the right to sue the newspapers.
The judge added, though, that journalists should not report on the specifics of witness testimony, so that future accounts given by other witnesses are not compromised.
Looking after the children? Don’t the maids do that? Disgrace, issue arrest warrants and bring them before the court.
In most countries, “looking after you children” is just what people do as a normal part of life as a parent. Apparently in this case it’s a convenient excuse to get out of something you don’t want to deal with.
Yeah all of the sudden they become parents
The fact that these people have the absolute cheek to use looking after the children as an excuse when they were convicted for not looking after others children properly is unbelievable. They have no respect for the victims at all and this just proves it to be so. My sympathy to all the victims of this terrible needless tragedy.
Yes, they have children. Please try to remember that they too could be reading these comments, and please keep remarks focused on the case.
Yes these people who are responsible directly or indirectly for the deaths of 19 , mostly children and escape to Europe….. Sorry but my sensitivities do not lie with them.
There is biological parenting and there is “real parenting” Anyone can be a father or mother by biological dumb luck and nature. It’s takes effort to be a “real” parent.
I don’t think anyone will be sensitive to the fact that they may be reading these comments, keeping in mind the hurt people are dealing with and the ludicrous delays for holidays and summers etc
Thats what I’m alluding too.
I think what’s even more disgusting than the excuse itself is the fact that court/law considered it valid. To me the believability of that excuse is right up there with “she fell on the knife.” The BS-meter in that building must have its alarm turned off (or maybe it’s just plain broken).
Do they even have children?
this is rubbing salt into wounds, distraught parents are attending because they lost their children and the defendant is too busy supposedly looking after hers
What should happen is that they be deported from the EU.
To live very comfortably in a palace and be even further protected. They should be convicted in absentia and an arrest warrant issued , and the warrant sent to interpol for action…
EU countries can refuse entry to convicted criminals. The EU should do this in the case of these men and women.
Forget about the bribery allegations surrounding Fifa 2022. The real shame and scandal is the appalling way that this case has been handled. Absolutely disgusting. If only the Guardian would spend as much time on this story as they did on football.
A wasta-land wasteland.
Postponed justice, postponed labors law implementation, postponed infrastructure projects, hope the World Cup Games doesn’t get rearranged.
Qatar really need to go through a reality check…
bring the judge from the Patterson trial over.
Is it possible its not the judge
But rather the “Wasta” of the people in the dock?
Well, in this case we have an ambassador and a minister’s daughter, in the other trial I wasn’t aware of the defendants having any special status, so I’d say yes, it’s most likely not the judge that’s making the difference
I wonder how quickly justice would be delivered if it was a child of one of the accused who was a victim? Pretty darn quick…
Why do people keep referring to Wasta as if when you say it in Arabic it is something less than what it is. Isn’t wasta “connections” in Arabic? In English I would have thought we normally call this nepotism or corruption – with all the moral or ethical implications that goes with those terms. To call it wasta seems to make light of it.
What a complete lack of justice. For a nation that loves to be in the limelight and show off their riches and pretty things, they sure give the rest of the world plenty of opportunities to laugh, scoff, and look down on them.
“Last time the defendants lawyer sought and was granted a two-month adjournment so he could go on holiday, this time he requested and was granted a four-and-a-half month adjournment for summer”
I think this about sums up the handling of this case
Put them in jail until the appeal is concluded then see how quickly these people want it finished.
To allow defendants to postpone to go on holiday is the equivalent of spitting on the graves of the dead children. For the judge to allow he should lose his job, his job is to uphold justice in an impartial manner not to be nice to the convicted criminals. Those children will never see another holiday
And all those commenters on here crying how people pick on Qatar. lol. It’s too easy.
I’m a Qatari, and I have no problem criticizing the way this case has been handled. That doesn’t mean I’m picking on Qatar. It remains to be seen whether or not you can be as honest about your country. Again, what did you call the near complete extermination of the native Americans and slavery? Ah, yes, an indiscretion! Now that’s too easy.
So nice to have my very own troll. I’m so lucky.
So you’re going to pick on one word I said in a story a week ago and keep hounding me about it?
Please forgive me for my “indiscretion”.
Hehehe, some doesn’t like the taste of his own medicine 😀
and technically the word is correct.
indiscretion-noun-behavior or speech that is indiscreet or displays a lack of good judgment
What do Qataris say about the centuries of slavery in their own country–slavery that did not legally end until a mere six decades ago? Very little publicly–no museums, no national dialogue, reparations?, and practically nothing in the so-called national history textbooks.
Qatar’s refusal to address this historic issue is a root of the blatant racism that continues today, and the Villagio case is a key example. Had it been Qatari children who died, the case would have been handled differently. Had the convicted killers been foreign nationals, the appeals process would not be the embarrassment that it has become. That Qatar has not recalled its ambassador (a convicted felon responsible for the deaths of children) is as shameful as Belgium’s decision not to demand his recall.
Yes, the slavery that we had in Qatar is why the Villagio fire happened, makes perfect sense. NOT!
Oh, David, David, … David! I hope you’re not expecting me to dignify yet another one of your “Qatar Sucks” rants with an actual response. Write something meaningful, and then maybe, just maybe, you’ll be in my good graces again.
I promise I will stop arguing with an…..
You cannot, you’re addicted to it. Trust me, I’ve been there 😉
How about you stop making general blanket statements about Qatar, Qataris, Arabs and Muslims in general, the same kind you wouldn’t want to hear about yourself and your people.
How about you stop doing the same?
Hey, you’re the one harassing me and putting words in my mouth all the time. I guess you can give it but cannot take it.
But please, by all means, prove me wrong and show me examples of when I made blanket statements about any group!
You really should read your own posts.
Two easy examples of your blanket statements would be your rants above and below about who we are and what we think (and about Westerners in general). Rants that are erroneous of course, but that’s a blanket comment for you.
You really should learn what a blanket statement is:
Dude you really know nothing about me. FYI I’m married to an arab and I am muslim. I don’t intend blanket statements about all Qatari’s and have never said that. But believe me Gulfies reputations are infamous all over. Now that’s a blanket statement.
Who you’re married and what religion you are is irrelevant. I’m not objecting to you as a person, but to your statements. As far as reputations go, your people’s reputation is even more infamous, and I’m more than happy tom post more cartoons on that if you ask nicely 😉
What makes you think being in your “good graces” matters to me? Offer a view beyond “I’m Qatari and therefore my opinion matters”, and I’ll take your comments more seriously.
And my remark is hardly trolling. It underlines that continued lack of a historic national address of race and racism in Qatar. These sorts of attitudes help to explain the lack of equality before the law, which is dramatically highlighted in the Villagio case. Surely you are not pretending that nationality and race has nothing to do with its handling.
btw–your quote is from George Carlin; it’s not anonymous.
Here’s one for you to consider, the next time you offer one:
“Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.”
― Ambrose Bierce
“I’m Qatari and therefore my opinion matters” when have I done that? Of course seeing as to how you often offer views with no supporting facts whatsoever, it’s understandable why you’re self-projecting your flaws onto others.
What support do you have for your claim that “Had it been Qatari children who died, the case would have been handled differently.”? Projecting your Western / white privilege on Qataris are you? Or your claim that “Qatar’s refusal to address this historic issue is a root of the blatant racism that continues today”. I’m waiting. All you have offered is your opinion, and nothing more.
As for nationality and race being a factor in the handling of the Villagio case, if indeed that is the case, I guess we’re just like the rest of world where the same factors come to play. I’d bring up examples of the many cases of children killed in by the US drones in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan, where no trials were held for those responsible for these killings, but those don’t matter to you, do they?
As far as addressing the historical slavery issue in Qatar, you’re more than welcome to start a petition demanding such actions. We’ll see how many former slaves and they’re decedents join you.
You don’t even know my nationality, race, or religion. As with the case with desertcard, you are the one making assumptions here, not us. And, laughably, your assumptions are all wrong, but that’s racism for you.
Yet again, you fail to explain and justify the things you said. All you do is throw pathetic insults like, “I’m Qatari and therefore my opinion matters”. You cannot make a reasonable argument, so you resort to personal insults.
I didn’t make any assumptions about Desertcard, I just replied to his BS. Just as I do with you. You on the other hand never stopped making assumption about Qatar and Qataris .
The fact is you only made the claim that “Qatar’s refusal to address this historic issue is a root of the blatant racism that continues today” here because you saw my response to your friend. If you truly believed that to be true, why have you not mentioned it before in any of the many stories about the Villagio trial or laborers rights? You’re just having an emotional butt hurt response for my mere mentioning of slavery in the US. I think that is a good indicator of your race and nationality, not that it matters.
You never cease to amaze me with your readiness to tell people what they think and why they do things. And as usual, you’re so wrong about those assumption, but, again, that’s the problem with racism. Me being offended by anyone chastising the US over its slave past is so very, very far from the truth. My objection was the relevance and your hypocrisy (as well as the your usual inaccuracies and false assumptions).
As I have said before, racism is a problem in Qatar, and closely linked to it is the equality before the law. I don’t think that this country has ever adequately attempted to have a meaningful national conversation about racism, which includes its slave-holding past. I think these sorts things contribute directly to the ongoing problems with race and nationality that are evident today, and the Villagio fire is a case in point. This does not mean that all Qataris are racist or that no other country has problems with racism, but this thread is about Qatar and the lack of justice for a group of expat families. If you want to stick you head in the sand and deny that, go right ahead.
The only conclusion one can draw from this is that pressure is being brought to bear for continued delays from certain persons who the delays favour.
I guess if you have wasta there will be no justice. Seems the defendants in the case of the murdered teacher had no connection for the conviction to have come so fast. I’m just wondering at what point they will run out of silly excuses, holiday, summer, they’re no in attendance. And then what? Maybe they’re hoping everyone will get tired and leave it alone
The families of the victims will never give up – the actions of this court show the utmost disrespect to these families – it breaks my heart to think of the pain they are going through – the government of Qatar needs to intervene and hold the people responsible accountable now…
I hope they never give up
The court IS the government of Qatar.
Not quite, but given that they are so interconnected here in Doha, one would have thought that they would intervene in these circumstances – to all least speed things along – these types of trials make an absolute sham of the legal system, and btw, no serious international investor in their right mind would invest in a country with a sham of a legal system – their money is not protected, period.
It’s the judicial wing of the government. It’s not a private company.
Look up Separation of Powers…
Yes, wasta can be seen as big factor, and it probably is. However, the case of the teacher is different because it was murder and they tried to hide it, where this case, as horrible as it is, is death due to lack of due diligence.
Well when they have exhausted the judges patience with holidays, summer, child care, needing more time to check witness statements ( two years isn’t long enough), then they could go onto
1 didn’t get the email with the directions to the court
2 minding the cat
3 giving the fish a bath
4 clipping their toenails
5 rearranging their socks in alphabetical order.
I reckon they could run all those excuses at least twice before the judge gets suspicious.
I’m being flippant, but hopefully not callous, given the nature of the court case.
Disgraceful. An insult to those who died, and further torment for their families. Is there any humanity in Qatar?
Am I alone in having sympathy for the defendants?
Fire regulations are complex, who could expect the owners, lay persons, to understand the the risks which were inherent in having the facility there?
Likewise the owner of the Mall and to a lesser degree managers who might be expected to know a little more.
What is needed in Qatar is a clear understanding of risk, which is being addressed now, and a simple clear system of regulation which ensures that facilities like Gympanzee are only allowed to open after open, transparent, procedures are followed. Clearly nobody foresaw the risk to these Children enough to have the facility closed. Why should the defendants be punished for matters clearly outside their knowledge or experience. If they had driven a car into a group of people and killed them because of their flouting of a law which required them to have training and a licence to drive I could understand the need for punishment. Not so much here.
To any who might accuse me of not caring, believe me I understand very clearly the agony of parents whose child is killed in such tragic circumstances. To see your child depart from home and never come back alive is every parents nightmare, and I have suffered this. My post is made because people have chosen to ridicule the defendants concern for their own children, please step back and get some perspective before attacking these poor people.
In a nutshell, they tried to provide a service for people which was welcomed, it failed to protect their children, punishment is not the only penalty they will carry for the rest of their lives, courts and lawyers are unforgiving, the rest of us should try to step back and put ourselves in the shoes of others.
If I had the power, I’d make it so the defendants, in this case and any similar ones, couldn’t leave the country until the case is resolved.
Shocking, just shocking. Stories like this make me lose faith in humanity….
So much tragedy with so little justice 🙁