Deadly Doha mall fire trial delayed again

Last updated 07:43 12/10/2012
the Weekes triplets
TRAGIC LOSS: The Weekes triplets.

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For a second time a court in Qatar has postponed the start of a criminal hearing into the Doha mall fire which killed 19 people, including young New Zealand triplets.

Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, who were two years old, died when a fire ravaged the nursery inside the Villaggio mall in May. They were among 13 children who died.

A second attempt overnight to get a court hearing into the tragedy under way failed because neither the owner of Gympanzee childcare centre nor her husband were present.

Martin Weekes, father of the triplets, said: "we're very disappointed that they didn't turn up".

He was not at the hearing, but understood the childcare centre owner and her husband were overseas and for whatever reason had chosen not to return to face the justice system in Qatar.

He was grateful to the New Zealand Government which had sent a representative from its embassy in Riyadh to the hearing.

He understood from a member of another affected family that the representative had been particularly helpful in getting some real information out of the court.

The critical issue for him was that there was still no information about what happened, Weekes said.

"We're concerned about the safety of the people who are still there because that mall has reopened. We still don't even know if it's safe. We don't know what went wrong."

Representatives of Villaggio, an insurance company, the Ministry of Business and Trade and Civil Defence had attended the overnight (NZT) hearing, the Doha News reported.

A panel of three judges at the Lower Criminal Court in Al Sadd had postponed the hearing until October 23, and would again send official notices to the homes of those who did not turn up.

Gympanzee owner Iman Al-Kuwari was the daughter of  Qatar's Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage, the Doha News said.

Several family members of those who died in the fire attended the hearing, some of them teary-eyed.

Charges were not read out, but one of the several embassy officials from various countries who attended said some 100 charges were filed against the numerous defendants on trial.

It was previously reported seven or eight people were thought to be accused in the case. The first attempt to get the hearing under way was in September.

The Gulf Times also reported it had been decided at the weekly Qatar government cabinet meeting to form a ministerial committee to study the reports submitted by earlier panels which investigated the fire.

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The Weekes triplets will be remembered at an event for The Neonatal Trust New Zealand, being run in collaboration with Weta Workshops and Mojo Coffee in Wellington, later this month.

Project Born was first staged in 2010 and is returning after a gap last year for the Rugby World Cup.

Recommended as suitable for those aged over 18 it is described as a mix of lingerie, cabaret, opera, body painting, and ‘‘amazing acts’’.

The show was conceived and written by Sir Richard Taylor of Weta Workshop, whose team of designers also created the costumes, sets, body paint, lighting and choreography.

- Stuff

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