Saudi court orders Mecca crane deaths trial to proceed

Saudi court orders Mecca crane deaths trial to proceed
2 min read
A Saudi appeals court ordered around a dozen people accused of negligence in a deadly 2015 crane collapse in Mecca to stand trial again, newspapers reported on Wednesday.
More than 100 people died in the accident [Getty]

About a dozen people accused of negligence in a deadly 2015 crane collapse in Mecca will stand trial again, a Saudi appeals court ordered, including a wealthy local businessman and a number of expatriates.

At least one Saudi "billionaire" and nationals of Pakistan, the Philippines, Canada and several Arab countries were charged with "negligence leading to death, damaging public property and ignoring safety guidelines", Okaz and Saudi Gazette reported.

The appeals judges overturned the Mecca criminal court's decision by a vote of five to two that it had no jurisdiction over allegations of "safety breaches".

No details were given to suggest when the hearings might resume, and newspaper reports offered differing figures for the number of accused - either 13 or 14.

At least 109 people, including foreign pilgrims, were killed when the crane crashed into a courtyard of Mecca's Grand Mosque during high winds in September 2015, one of the holiest sites in Islam.

The tragic September event occurred during ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca when severe winds forced the large crane to topple over as construction ensued in the Grand Mosque.

The mosque draws millions of pilgrims from around the world each year.

Monday's ruling came after an appeal by prosecutors. 

The crane was one of several the Saudi Binladin Group had erected as part of a multi-billion-dollar expansion plan to accommodate increasing numbers of faithful.

King Salman suspended the firm from new public contracts for several months after the tragedy.

Saudi Binladin Group, which developed landmark buildings in the kingdom, was founded more than 80 years ago by the father of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed by US commandos in Pakistan in 2011.

Days after the crane collapse, a second tragedy struck when more than 2,000 people died in a stampede near Mecca during the annual hajj – in contrast to Saudi reports that claimed a much lower death toll.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the interior minister who also chairs the Hajj committee, ordered a probe immediately after the stampede disaster but there has been no word on its findings.