27 Oct 2015

Parents devastated after court clears five over Doha fire

8:32 pm on 27 October 2015

The parents of triplets killed in a large mall fire in Doha are calling on the Prime Minister John Key to follow up on promises made to him by the Emir of Qatar.

The Weekes triplets.

The two-year-old Weekes triplets were killed 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. Nineteen 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.

The convictions were today thrown out by Qatar's Court of Appeal.

Father Martin Weekes said Mr Key needed to step up and follow through with the Qatari government.

"All along the Prime Minister has said that he will step in to help us and help our family, because these are New Zealanders who have been killed overseas. Well, now is the time to step in. He was promised by the absolute monarch of the country that we would have justice. This wasn't the justice we were expecting."

Mr Weekes says he and his wife Jane are now waiting to hear if they can appeal.

Peter Kovessy from the Doha News website told Morning Report the appeal had centred on whether the facility was a children's entertainment area or a nursery.

He said the judge threw out evidence from parents who took their children there every day and paid in monthly instalments.

Earlier today, Jane and Martin Weekes called the move 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.

"It was like being three years ago, how awful we felt," she said.

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

Mr Weekes said Qatar wanted to be an international tourist destination, but "they cannot even guarantee public safety with basic protections".

"Their judicial system is not fit for purpose. It is one rule for Qataris and another rule for all others."

The judge who made the ruling on the case had not heard many of submissions on the appeal, Mr Weekes said. "His verdict lasted longer than he had in terms of hearings."

Mr Weekes said he was waiting to hear whether the family or the attorney general could appeal to Qatar's highest court, the Court of Cassation.

He called on the New Zealand government to remind Qatar of its responsibilities to the families affected by the fire.

"Our Government now has to stand up and represent our interests to the Qataris.

"We are looking to our government, particularly our prime minister to follow up the promises that were made to him in April this year by the Emir of Qatar," Mr Weekes said. "This isn't the justice we were hoping for."

Emergency services at the Villagio Mall fire in 2012

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