Five people were found guilty of negligence Thursday in a deadly mall fire in Qatar that killed 19 people, including the only daughter of two Georgia State University professors.
“Yes, the verdict is unexpected,” said Grace O, whose 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Zeinah, was among the 13 children killed in the blaze. “We are relieved.”
Sheik Ali Bin Jasim Thani Al Thani and his wife, owners of the Gympanzee day care center where the children perished, were sentenced to six years in prison. The sheik, who is related to the oil-rich country’s royal family, serves as a Brussels-based diplomat.
Investigators have blamed faulty wiring for the May 2012 blaze. A short circuit in a fluorescent tube light in the upstairs storeroom of a Nike shop ignited the blaze, according to news accounts. Zeinah and the other children enrolled in the nursery were killed by the noxious smoke emanating from the fire.
A government report concluded the day care facility “was not licensed as a nursery by the ministry of social affairs and thus did not have the necessary safety conditions.”
The chairman of the Villaggio mall and the deputy mall manager also were sentenced to six years in prison — the maximum allowed by Qatari law. A fifth defendant, a government trade representative, was sentenced to five years behind bars.
In an interview this week before the verdict was announced, Zeinah’s father, Zaier Aouani, had told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was “not confident” justice would be served.
Though heartened by the verdict, O said “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.”
Parents of the victims were promised access to the report but thus far they haven’t seen it.
“We will not stop in our fight for justice,” the parents said in a joint statement released after the verdict. “We will not stop in our fight for the truth. We will not stop in ensuring that this can never happen again.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.