RELIGION

Saudi Arabia orders retrial in 2015 Grand Mosque crane crash case

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Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has ordered a retrial in the Grand Mosque crane crash case, overturning the acquittal of the defendants, Okaz newspaper reported.

The court’s decision comes seven years after the Haram crane catastrophe, which occurred on September 11, 2015, killing 108 persons and injuring another 238.

On August 4, 2021, the Court of Appeal upheld the Mecca Criminal Court’s decision to exonerate every defendant in the crane crash case. The Criminal Court delivered its third decision in December 2020, clearing all 13 defendants in the case — including the Saudi Bin Laden Group — of all charges. The court then stated that it had discovered nothing further to its earlier rulings and that it would transmit a copy of the judgment to the Court of Appeal for that court’s consideration.

In a previous decision on October 1, 2017, the Criminal Court had cleared all 13 defendants of the negligence charges. Additionally, the Mecca court had concluded that weather conditions, not human error or fault, had contributed to the accident.

The First Circuit of the Supreme Court made the decision to reverse every judgment rendered by the Criminal Court and the Court of Appeal in the case. It was mandated that all cases be re-examined by a new judicial circuit, which was to be comprised entirely of judges who had not previously considered the case.

The Court of Appeal, the defendants, and the appropriate authorities have all been made aware of the Supreme Court’s revised ruling. Ten of the accused were present when the Supreme Court met, according to sources, while three other defendants or their lawyers were not there. The Supreme Court circuit mandated that the case’s trial proceed without these defendants.

The Supreme Court indicated in its verdict that it had looked at numerous facets of the case, as well as the investigations into the occurrence and the related rulings. It looked over the Ministry of Finance’s proposal to get rid of the crane because it was no longer required. The defendants had also failed to provide proof that the crane was only left in that location with a specific written order from the project owner or the project consultant, the court said.

The court also emphasised that, given the timing of the incident – during the height of the Hajj season, which is the time period designated for work halts in order to ensure the safety and security of Hajj pilgrims and Umrah performers – it was not sufficiently established that the crane’s arm should remain raised and not to be lowered.

The accident, according to the court, was caused by a lack of the greatest level of safety precautions for pilgrims during the busiest Hajj season and also as a result of the erratic weather during that time.

The court stated that it had discovered “that there was insufficient research regarding the presence of an alert regarding the weather circumstances relevant to the occurrence in terms of wind direction and speed at the time this alert was issued and how it was communicated to the stakeholders.”

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