x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Kuwaiti wedding blaze killer sentenced to death

A Kuwaiti woman is convicted of starting a fire which killed 57 women and children at her husband's wedding party.

A Kuwaiti woman has been sentenced to death for intentionally starting a fire which killed 57 women and children at the wedding party of her husband who took another wife in the emirate. Judge Adel al-Sager read out the verdict against Nasra Yussef Mohammed al-Enezi, 23, at the Court of First Instance. Death sentences in Kuwait are carried out by hanging, but it would first have to be upheld by the appeals court.

The woman, who was not present in the court, was found guilty of "premeditated murder and starting a fire with the intent to kill." Press reports at the time of the blaze said Enezi had wanted to avenge her husband's "bad treatment" of her, but in court she denied any involvement in the incident. Defence lawyer Zaid al-Khabbaz vowed he would prove Enezi's innocence in the higher courts and said the verdict had been influenced by public opinion.

"The ruling was very harsh against a woman who is innocent," Mr Khabbaz said. "It is a political judgement rather than a criminal ruling because the court came under the influence of public opinion." He said the public prosecution failed to "unequivocally prove that Enezi was the perpetrator. The case contained many legal loopholes." Mr Khabbaz said the defence team was considering contacting international human rights organisations in a bid to save Enezi's life.

He also said the defence team would have a better opportunity to prove her innocence in the appeals and supreme courts. The August 15 inferno engulfed the women-and-children-only tent in minutes and triggered a stampede. The final death toll was 57, including several Saudis and stateless Arabs. At her first hearing in October, the suspect denied the charges. At another hearing, an Asian domestic helper testified in court that she saw Enezi pour petrol and start the fire at the wedding tent in Jahra, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Kuwait City.

Her defence lawyers had alleged at the time of Enezi's arrest on August 16 that she was two months pregnant but that the embryo was "deliberately aborted" by a prison guard with the help of an Asian nurse. Enezi was initially believed to be the groom's ex-wife but defence lawyers said she was still his wife. Enezi and the man have two children, both of whom are mentally handicapped. If Enezi's sentence is upheld by higher courts, she would be the first Kuwaiti woman to be executed.

* AFP