x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Firestarter fails to show in court

Man accused of setting fire to prison fails to appear at the Dubai Criminal Court.

DUBAI // A man accused of risking the lives of 200 men when he set fire to the Al Qusais detention centre failed today to show up at the Dubai Criminal Court to enter his plea.

ME, a 31-year-old Emirati, was in custody for a drug-related offence at the time of the fire, which occurred on October 1, 2010. Camera footage from the prison showed him setting fire to two blankets in ward B with a cigarette lighter at about 2.30am. It was unclear how he got hold of the lighter. Heavy smoke spread through the ward causing a number of the inmates to choke before police could extinguish the fire. Rescue services treated those affected.

The court heard the fire was so severe it caused the prison phone booths to melt.

EA, a 37-year-old policeman, testified that the inmate often caused problems. He said the inmate was prescribed medication for a psychiatric disorder and that he was demanding greater quantities of this medication before the fire took place.

About two months after the fire, on November 27, heavy smoke was seen coming out of the inmate's cell. When policemen investigated they saw the inmate's mattress had been burnt and the fire had spread through his cell.

The inmate is facing charges concerning both fires. Prosecutors charged him with posing risk to lives of 200 other detainees, starting fire to the detention, and damaging public property at cost of Dh150 in the first case. He was charged with setting fire to his cell and causing damages at cost of Dh1150 in the second case.

He is also appealing a six-month jail term he received for starting a third fire. The reason for his absence in court was unclear.

The next hearing was scheduled for June 7.

salamir@thenational.ae