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Qatari ambassador cleared over shopping mall fire

A judge in Doha has dismissed convictions against several people, including a Qatari ambassador, for a 2012 shopping mall fire which left 19 dead, including 13 children.

Sheikh Ali Bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar’s ambassador to Belgium, was among those acquitted of a charge of involuntary manslaughter by the Qatar Court of Appeal.

A Qatari government website also says Thani is the country’s “head of mission to the European Union”.

Thani was co-owner of the “Gympanzee” nursery at a well-known Doha shopping mall, the Villagio, where the fire happened in May 2012.

Many of the children suffocated after a blaze broke out at a nearby Nike sports store, caused by faulty wiring.

The victims included two-year-old triplets from New Zealand. Children from France, Spain and Japan also perished as did teachers from the Philippines and South Africa.

Thani was among four people appealing a 2013 involuntary manslaughter conviction imposed by a criminal court in Qatar.

That conviction left the four facing a maximum of six years in prison, according to Doha News, an English-language news website.

But in a five-hour long ruling on Monday, the convictions against the individuals were thrown out.

The judge did find the mall’s owners guilty of involuntary manslaughter, which means family victims of the tragedy could receive “blood money” as compensation.

Doha News reported that relatives of the victims stormed out of the court after hearing the verdict.

None of the accused were in court.

Monday’s verdict prompted a furious reaction on social media in Qatar, with one Twitter user, @MoeFahkro, posting: “Disappointed but not shocked. This is the state of our justice system. Incredibly sad.”

The blaze made headlines worldwide and had prompted the issue to be raised by New Zealand Prime Minister, John Ke,y when he met Qatar’s emir earlier this year, according to media reports.