The family of an oil worker found dead onboard an offshore platform in Qatar could get to decide if his killer lives or dies, it emerged today.
A Scottish man – who is understood to be from the north-east – has been arrested in connection with the alleged murder on the Seafox Burj on Monday.
Describing how the case could now proceed, a Qatari lawyer told the Press & Journal that three judges will decide if the accused is guilty and recommend any sentence.
Hanging for murder is common in Qatar – but the lawyer said the victim’s family would play a part in deciding on the ultimate outcome.
“The sentence would be to execute him but, if the family of the murdered person forgives the one who did the act, the sentence would go down,” said the lawyer, who specialises in criminal issues in Qatar and asked not to be named.
He added: “The judges have to ask the two families involved.
“If the family of the murderer tell the judge they have a settlement with the family of the victim, they have to come to Qatar.
“They would tell the judge ‘yes, we have a settlement. We agreed to forgive’.
“In that case, it would be a long prison sentence rather than an execution.
“If the victim’s family forgives the killer, the sentence could be as low as 10 years.
“It depends on what the judge understands from the families of the two parties.”
Raised the alarm
The three men involved in the incident were contractors for Ellon-based Film-Ocean and a French firm Stapem Offshore on the Seafox Burj platform in the Persian Gulf.
At around 1.40am on Monday, Mr Begley, 38, was struck on the head with a pipe after returning to the cabin he shared with the alleged killer and dead man.
Colleagues heard a commotion and raised the alarm. It was then that they discovered the body of the third man – who is from the north-east of England – in the cabin.
Police travelled from Doha to the oil platform by helicopter to begin an investigation.
Taken to hospital
Mr Begley was initially taken to the Al Rayyan Police Station in Qatar for questioning while police tried to establish each person’s role in the incident.
It is understood bosses of Stapem Offshore in France called their Qatari representatives around 11.45pm on Monday to ask for them to attend the police station and free Mr Begley.
Mr Begley, from Coatbridge, was then taken to hospital for treatment for head injuries and released on Tuesday.
As previously reported, Mr Begley has since flown home to Scotland and his father Dennis has spoken about his ordeal.
Custody for eight days
Meanwhile, the north-east man – who has not yet been named – was taken into custody.
Explaining the legal process, the Qatari lawyer said: “After the person is arrested, the police have 48 hours before they must hand him over to the prosecutor who represents the Attorney General.
“The prosecutor’s role – similar to in the UK – is to work with the police to collect information and find out if this man committed a crime.
“He is representing the victim. He can bring witnesses and ask for any information that will establish if there was a criminal act.
“The prosecutor has the right to keep him in for a maximum of eight days.
“If they still feel they need to finish the investigation, they send the case to a judge and the judge will extend custody for maybe a week or a month until things become clear for the prosecutor.
“Once evidence has been completed, the prosecutor will refer the matter to the criminal court.”
Qatar has two criminal courts – a misdemeanour court for minor offences and a felony court for the most serious crimes.
Outcome might take a year
The lawyer said this case would be heard in the felony court.
The accused man will be asked to make a plea to the allegations during a Court of First Instance hearing.
He added: “If he says ‘I am guilty’ the judges still have to hear the circumstances (because) maybe he is lying or something like that.
“If it were to be appealed there would be three judges and if there is a second appeal in the Cassation Court there would be seven judges.”
The lawyer said the case, which would be heard in Arabic, could take anything from two months to a year.
He added: “If there are not a lot of witnesses, it might take two or three months, but if they want to bring witnesses – maybe they will not be in Qatar – it will take longer.”