Libyan sentenced to 3 yrs for fire

15th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

15 June 2007, THE HAGUE (AP) - A Libyan asylum seeker who started a fire at a Dutch airport prison that killed 11 people locked in cells was convicted Friday of arson and sent to prison for three years.

15 June 2007

THE HAGUE (AP) - A Libyan asylum seeker who started a fire at a Dutch airport prison that killed 11 people locked in cells was convicted Friday of arson and sent to prison for three years.

Prosecutors had demanded a five-year sentence for Ahmed al-Jabali, 25, for starting the fire by flicking away a smouldering cigarette in his cell.

"The man did not deliberately commit arson, but through his actions he knowingly took the risk of starting a fire," according to a written verdict issued by Haarlem Court.

The judges said al-Jabali did not put out the cigarette before flicking the butt toward a pile of sheets and toilet paper at the end of his bed, and did not check where it landed.

The verdict said that although al-Jabali's did not deliberately intend to kill the 11 victims of the blaze, "he is held responsible."

The blaze in the early hours of Oct. 27, 2005, gutted a detention complex near Schiphol Airport where dozens of asylum seekers and drug smugglers were being held.

The victims were from Suriname, Ukraine, Turkey, Libya, Dominican Republic, Bulgaria and Romania.

Prison guards rescued al-Jabali from his cell but then left the door open, allowing the flames to quickly spread to other cells.

The fire raised concerns about the safety and treatment of foreign immigrants refused asylum in the Netherlands.

It also cost two government ministers their jobs. Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner and Housing Minister Sybilla Dekker quit last year after a government inquiry issued a damning report into failures in the running of the prison complex and the response of emergency services to the blaze.

The report, released last September, listed failures, including the lack of training in emergency procedures for prison guards, faulty smoke and ventilation ducts and problems of access for fire trucks.

The wing of the detention centre where the fire broke out fell short of building regulations, it said.

However, the judges in Haarlem ruled that those factors were not relevant to al-Jabali's guilt.

"It is common sense that a fire in a cell complex where those who are locked up cannot free themselves can be deadly," the judges wrote. "Problems with the building or emergency services do not diminish the responsibility of the suspect as the one who caused the fire."

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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