23 Nov 2015

Triplets' dad welcomes appeals over Doha mall fire

9:39 am on 23 November 2015

The father of the New Zealand triplets killed in a Doha mall fire has welcomed an appeal against the acquittal of people previously convicted in connection with the fire.

The Weekes triplets.

New Zealand triplets were among the 19 who died in the fire Photo: SUPPLIED

Two-year-olds Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes died in the blaze in the Qatari capital on 28 May 2012. In total, 19 people died in the fire at Villagio Mall, including 10 toddlers and four teachers at the mall's Gympanzee daycare centre.

The mall's manager and three others were convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and given the maximum sentence of six years in prison, while a fifth defendant was sentenced to five years, but the convictions were thrown out by Qatar's Court of Appeal in October.

Qatar's attorney-general has announced those acquittals will now be appealed.

The triplets' father, Martin Weekes, says the appeal was inevitable.

"The message that was sent out was that if you're a foreigner, and you're in this country, and something happens, you have no protection under the legal system - you've got no guarantee of safety, and you're in a really invidious position. The ex-pats in Qatar are really, really upset by what has happened."

Mr Weekes said he was looking for accountability and justice for his children and he wanted the convictions upheld.

A 2013 investigation had found that a series of safety laws had been broken.

The fire was caused by an electrical fault at the Gympanzee nursery in the capital Doha's Villaggio Mall in May 2012.

Rescuers reportedly had to break through the roof to get to the children when a staircase collapsed, trapping them inside the building.

Emergency services at the Villagio Mall fire in 2012

Emergency services at the Villagio Mall fire in 2012 Photo: AFP

The nursery had no emergency fire exit, and a government investigation found that staff had failed to respond adequately when the fire broke out.

Among those acquitted was Sheikh Ali bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar's ambassador to Belgium, who co-owned the nursery. Mr Thani, his wife and three other people were sentenced in 2013 in relation to the blaze.

Last month, Jane and Martin Weekes, the parents of the New Zealand triplets who died, called the acquittals a "travesty of justice".

"I found it personally devastating," Mrs Weekes said. "Whilst we've been trying to prepare ourselves for a long period of time that things may not work out the way we believe they should have, it didn't make today's verdict any easier.

"I wasn't prepared for how hard it was to hear how trivialised our children's deaths has become."


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