The families of the victims of the Villaggio fire yesterday received the criminal court’s verdict with great relief and expressed their gratitude to HH the Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
They recalled that HH Sheikh Tamim had promised them immediately after the incident, during his visits to offer condolences, that justice would take its due course.
They also pointed out that the verdict ‘exceeded their best expectations, describing it as excellent and hoped that it would be upheld at the appeal court in the shortest possible time.’
The verdict was issued yesterday after 14 previous sessions and the court was presided over by judge Abdulla al-Emadi. Four of the defendants were sentenced to six years in jail each, one defendant was sentenced to five years and two were acquitted.
All defendants were ordered to pay a sum of QR200,000 in collaboration with the insurance company as blood money for the heirs of each of the victims. In the meantime, the civil case would be referred to the concerned court. A counterfeit document with a request to renew the license of the nursery was confiscated.
The families of the victims ‘appreciated the role of the Qatari judiciary as it has proven to the world that it is neutral.’
Abdulmasseh Antonious, the father of Evan, an 18-month-old child who was killed in the incident, said that he has been waiting for such a verdict for 13 months and though it would not bring his son back, it has given him great relief. His wife, Manal Markous, said the verdict would help heal her broken heart.
Mohamed Monieb from South Africa, the father of a 15-month child killed in the fire, said though the incident was a great disaster for him and his wife, he is now comforted by the fair verdict.
Two months ago another child was born to the couple, bringing happiness and hope to the family.
Other parents of the victims said that though the loss was great and irretrievable, the just verdict is of great relief to them, and would mitigate the pain inflicted by the tragedy.
Yusuf al-Zaman, the lawyer for three of the defendants in the case: the manager of Villaggio Complex, his deputy and security officer, affirmed the independence and fairness of the Qatari judiciary. He said that two of his clients were acquitted because it was proven that they were present at the time of the incident and exerted great efforts when the fire broke out, but it was beyond their capabilities to have done more. However, Villaggio’s manager was convicted and sentenced to six years in jail.
Al-Zaman said that he respects the verdict of the court, but the law gave the sentenced an opportunity to appeal within 15 days of the ruling and when the lawyers got a copy of the verdict they would study such an option.