Villaggio fire verdict: Five defendants sentenced to prison
“We are relieved,” a mother of one of the victims of the Villaggio fire tragedy told JustHere following the verdict of the mall’s fire trial today.
“We expected a less severe charge from the court. But we were surprised that the defendants were charged with the maximum punishment. It’s a good beginning for all of us. But it’s still not the end as we have to wait for the verdict regarding the appeals from defendants,” the mother said.
The media representative of the families of victim had this to add:
We welcome today’s initial verdict. We are pleased that the court has chosen to find five people responsible.
Today is a day to remember. To remember the 19 innocent people, including 13 of our beautiful children, killed last year in Villaggio. Loved ones, who will never see justice. Loved ones, we miss more with every day that passes.
We are still awaiting to know what happened on 28 May 2012. The trial only gave us some answers. We still have more questions. To get these much needed answers, we call upon the State of Qatar to release the official report into the disaster. A simple request, that will help us all understand what went wrong.
We are disgusted by Villaggio’s continual insensitive behaviour. Yesterday, Villaggio reopened the area destroyed by the fire. Not once have we been shown the dignity to be able to grieve privately where our children were killed. The owners and management, some of whom have been on trial, have shown us no remorse. They should be ashamed.
We would like to thank the thousands of messages of support we have received in Qatar, our home nations and from around the world. We would also like to thank our legal team for guiding us through this traumatic and painful process. We will now be taking further advice on the next steps available to us in the judicial process.
We will not stop in our fight for justice. We will not stop in our fight for the truth. We will not stop in ensuring that this can never happen again.
Interestingly, despite the verdict, the sentence does not begin till they’ve had the opportunity to appeal it.
DohaNews which has been on top of the Villaggio fire reporting, both during and in the aftermath, live-tweeted the verdict. They reported that the Doha court has sentenced five of the defendants to jail on account of “involuntary manslaughter”.
Sheikh Ali Bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s Ambassador to Belgium and co-owner of Gympanzee; Iman Al-Kuwari, daughter of Qatar’s culture minister and co-owner and manager of Gympanzee; Abdul Aziz Mohammed Al-Rabban, Villaggio’s Chairman; and Tzoulios Tzouliou, the Manager of Villaggio will serve six years in prison – the maximum punishment for the charge.
Mansour Nasir Fazzaa al-Shahwani from the Ministry of Business and Trade, who was held responsible for granting Gymanzee its permit, has been sentenced to five years.
Two other defendants of the case, Rima Itani, the mall’s Assistant Manager, and Ahmad Muhammad Abdul Rahman, the mall’s Head of Security, have been cleared of all charges.
The monetary compensation to be paid by the defendants will be decided by the country’s civil court.
The fire that struck Villaggio mall on May 28 last year claimed 19 lives including 13 children, four Gympanzee employees and two firefighters. Click here to read the Villaggio fire timeline.
Here are some of the other reactions from people: