Prosecutors lose appeal over New Year’s Eve fire case

Appeal court upholds firefighter’s acquittal of mocking Civil Defence staff via WhatsApp video

Gulf News

Dubai: Prosecutors lost their appeal against a man, who was cleared of impersonating a firefighter, secretly entering The Address Hotel during the New Year’s Eve fire and ridiculing Civil Defence personnel via social media.

When the 34-year-old Emirati man, M.G., appeared before the Dubai Appeal Court, he strongly refuted the charges of impersonating a firefighter, sneaking into the hotel, filming the fire and ridiculing fellow firefighters through a video that went viral on WhatsApp.

In June, the Dubai Court of First Instance acquitted M.G. citing lack of corroborated evidence.

Prosecutors appealed the primary judgement and sought to have his acquittal overturned before the appellate court and have him punished.

Presiding judge Eisa Al Sharif dismissed prosecutors’ appeal and upheld the acquittal of M.G.

The suspect was cleared of mocking and tarnishing the image of Civil Defence personnel, recording a video of himself dressed as a firefighter, and sharing the video on social media.

“I am a firefighter. I did not publish the video among the public, but I only shared it with a group of my workmates on WhatsApp,” argued the suspect.

Records said M.G. dressed up as a firefighter and entered the premises while the hotel was on fire on New Year’s Eve. He then filmed himself walking around the 35th floor barefoot, smoking a cigarette and drinking a beverage and said the fire was under control.

When he finished videoing himself, according to records, he forwarded it on WhatsApp.

M.G.’s lawyer, Saeed Al Gafri, of Al Shamsi and Partners Advocates and Legal Consultants, argued that his client did not tarnish the Civil Defence’s image or mock the rescue and firefighting efforts.

“The video did not contain any disdaining phrases or images. He stepped in to help his colleagues. M.G. had obtained permission from one of the site supervisors to do so. A Civil Defence lieutenant testified that my client entered the burning hotel to help them extinguish the fire … and then he filmed himself on video to boast about his capabilities of putting out a fire on foot and not from planes and that he participated in the rescue operations,” argued Al Gafri.

M.G. told the court he has been working as a firefighter for Abu Dhabi Civil Defence for two years.

Lawyer Al Gafri said that M.G. had no bad or criminal intention and intended to help his colleagues

“A lieutenant testified that my client had saved an American woman during the rescue operations. The lieutenant said he would allow M.G. to participate in fire-extinguishing operation due to his excellent expertise and skills.”

The appellate ruling remains subject to appeal before the Cassation Court within 25 days.