Qatar's top court overturns Doha mall fire acquittal

Lillie, Jackson and Willsher died when fire engulfed the Villagio Mall in 2012 (File)
Lillie, Jackson and Willsher died when fire engulfed the Villagio Mall in 2012 (File)

The father of triplets killed in the Doha mall fire has welcomed a decision to overturn the acquittal of five people held responsible for the blaze which took the lives of 19 people.

Martin Weekes' two-year-old children Lillie, Jackson and Willsher died at the Gympanzee nursery when fire engulfed the Villagio Mall in May 2012.

Ten other children and four teachers also suffocated.

"One step forward, two steps back, this is three steps forward. So [the new trial] is positive news," Mr Weekes says.

The Villagio's chairman and manager, a municipal employee and the co-owners of Gympanzee daycare were all convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2013 and sentenced to six years.

But that conviction was overturned on appeal last October in a controversial decision.

The judge, Abdalraham al-Sharafi, decided to disregard any evidence from the victims' families, including proof that the children were attending an improperly licensed nursery, not a drop-in recreation area for children, as the defence had argued.

But the victims' families and the New Zealand Government expressed their concerns to the Qatari government and the Attorney General Dr Ali bin Fetais al-Marri intervened, urging the country's highest court to take another look at the case.

"Qatar's Attorney General put his neck on the line to say, 'we're going to address this', and, in fairness to him, within two months the Court of Cassation had met, heard and issued a verdict. So we've got hope," Mr Weekes says.

Mr Weekes and his wife Jane returned to New Zealand, where Ms Weekes gave birth to twins Parker and Poppy, nearly two years ago, but they have never given up on getting justice for Lillie, Jackson and Willsher.

The family has no intention of returning for the third trial but Mr Weekes hopes the verdict holds to account those who were responsible.