x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Woman who set fire to wedding tent, killing 57, has death penalty upheld in Kuwait

Defence lawyer to ask victims' families to call on emir to reduce sentence after Nasra Al Enezi was found guilty of premeditated murder for burning a tent packed with revellers celebrating her husband's marriage to a second wife.

KUWAIT CITY // The court of cassation yesterday upheld the death sentence against a Kuwaiti woman found guilty of setting fire to a wedding tent, killing at least 57 women and children.

"It's not a good decision from the judge. It's 100 per cent wrong," said Zaid al Khabbaz, a lawyer for Nasra al Enezi. Al Enezi, who was 23 years old at the time of the fire in August 2009, did not attend the hearing.

Mr al Khabbaz said when a case receives a lot of media coverage in Kuwait and the public concludes that the accused is guilty then the defendant has little chance of being found innocent in court. He said: "It's the public reaction. Everyone says she must die."

Al Enezi was found guilty of "premeditated murder and starting a fire with intent to kill" for burning a tent packed with revellers celebrating her husband's marriage to a second wife in Jahra, a tribal area about 40 kilometres west of Kuwait City.

Mr al Khabbaz said there is no information on when the sentence will be carried out, but estimated it could take between three and five years. He said he will ask the victims' families to petition the emir to reduce the penalty to a lesser punishment, such as life in prison.

An initial reaction from a relative of the victims suggests the lawyer will struggle to win their support.

"Clearly this lawyer doesn't know what it feels like to have your mother and sister-in-law burned to death," said Hayel al Shammari. "She's got what she deserved and justice was done."

None of the families of the victims will speak to the lawyer if he visits them to propose petitioning the emir for a lighter sentence, Mr al Shammari said. "He'll be kicked out if he comes to us."

"We placed our trust in our judicial system. It's one of the best in the world. We have honest, God-fearing judges, and they made sure justice was done. After the execution, she will have to face Allah's judgement, and Allah's judgement is the fairest of all," he added.

In addition to the deaths of two family members, two of Mr al Shammari's sisters were left with burns on nearly 50 per cent of their bodies and his nephew, who was four years old at the time of the fire, suffered severe burns and psychological trauma.

The fire engulfed the canvas tent in minutes, triggering a stampede for the exit where fire department employees found a pile of charred bodies. Witnesses said the intense heat caused the hair of at least one woman to burst into flames and another tried to escape the inferno by ripping through the enclosure's waxed walls with her teeth.

An Asian domestic worker said in court that she saw al Enezi pour a flammable liquid over the tent and start the fire. In an interrogation after her arrest, al Enezi said she wanted to "burn the heart" of her husband, with whom she has two children, for taking a second wife, the local press reported.

Mr al Khabbaz argued that her confession was made under duress. Her lawyers had said she should not have been charged with murder because she had not intended to kill the partygoers but only wanted to ruin the party.

The tent was erected on a small patch of land, surrounded by buildings with one small exit. The incident led to a government crackdown on illegally pitched tents during Ramadan.

 

jcalderwood@thenational.ae