Dubai court grants retrial to man convicted of causing friend's death in shisha fire

Higher court found flaws in the earlier verdict and set up panel of judges to hear appeal

A closeup shot shows the facade of the Dubai Courts building during a hearing on April 04, 2010 in the case of a British couple sentenced to a month in jail after being convicted of kissing in public in a restaurant in the Muslim Gulf emirate. The couple's lawyer said the appeals court upheld the one-month prison sentence against the two, named by the British press as Ayman Najafi, 24, a British expat, and tourist Charlotte Lewis, 25. The couple were arrested in November 2009, after they were accused of consuming alcohol and kissing in a restaurant in the trendy Jumeirah Beach Residence neighbourhood.     AFP PHOTO/STR / AFP PHOTO
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A Dubai court granted a retrial to an Emirati who was convicted of causing his friend's death in a shisha fire.

Judges in the emirate's Cassation Court overruled the verdict passed by the Misdemeanour and Appeal courts.

They said the police report showed the man was not guilty of setting the fire which caused the death of his friend.

A new panel of appeal judges will hear the case.

Judges were told the Emirati, 37, and the woman were at a farm’s majlis in the Lihbab area of Dubai on March 14 last year.

The Ethiopian woman, whose age was not given, brought shisha inside the majlis and left the charcoal at the entrance.

After 45 minutes of smoking shisha together, the man noticed a flare.

"I walked towards the tent's entrance and looked out and saw the fire. I had to jump above the flames, which spread very fast and were blocking the way," the man told the judges.

He said he tried using the water from the well to put out the fire, but the pump did not work. Several people used buckets to splash water and douse the flames.

“The fire was spreading fast and I was screaming at her to jump out of the place but she didn’t move,” he said.

Firefighters controlled the blaze, but found the woman dead.

Medical reports said she suffered burns and died of asphyxiation.

The man was initially found guilty of causing death.

The Misdemeanour and Appeal courts sentenced him to one year in prison, and fined him Dh5,000. He was also ordered to pay blood money of Dh200,000 to the woman’s family.

But the man’s Emirati lawyer Bader Khamis challenged the verdict and submitted reports issued by Dubai Police’s criminal laboratory in April 2020.

The report said a wind blew sparks of charcoal across the tent, starting the fire and helping it to spread quickly.

“The burning charcoal fell on the floor nearly two metres away from the right side of the tent,” Mr Bader said.

“It was a windy day and the wind carried the sparks to sofas in that part of the tent, which ignited the fire.”