An Emirati woman who lost her seven children, aged five to 13, in a horrific house fire last year is being tried for negligence under the 2016 Wadeema Law which "safeguards children in the UAE from neglect and abuse."
Salima Al Suraidi has been appearing in a local Fujairah court over the past year and is expected to receive a final verdict on Nov. 18, Gulf News reported.
When the incident took place in January 2018, Al Suraidi had initially told police she was at home with the children when the fire broke out in the Rul Dhadna district residence. However, further investigations revealed she had gone out and locked her four daughters and three sons inside the room where they later suffocated to death due to the blaze.
Al Suraidi was raising the children alone after she lost their father to cancer in 2014.
If the woman is found guilty, she could face jail time and be ordered to pay blood money. Such a verdict will make this case the first of its kind in the UAE.
What complicates the woman's legal situation is the fact that she spoke to press at the time of the incident, claiming she was inside the house when her children died.
In her statements, the defendant said she put her kids to sleep at around 10 p.m. and woke up a few hours later at 3:45 a.m. because she was "having breathing difficulties."
She added that two of her daughters were sleeping next to her and had already died of suffocation when she turned towards them. The woman explained how she then scrambled to check on all her children but found them unresponsive.
Investigations determined "faulty lights" as the cause of the fire
The cause of the house fire was later confirmed to be a fault in the lights installed in one of the rooms.
Major-General Mohammed Ahmed bin Ghanim Al Kaabi, Commander-in-Chief of Fujairah Police, explained that authorities had received an emergency call to the scene too late as it came hours after the fire had started.
Following the incident, Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum "directed UAE Civil Defence to immediately install fire alarm systems into every home at the expense of the government for those who can't afford it."
In October 2018, the UAE's Ministry of Interior launched a smart fire alarm system called Hassantuk (protect you) that now directly connects villas and home alarm systems across the country to emergency operation rooms.