Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has overturned the acquittal of the defendants in the 2015 collapse of a crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, an event that resulted in more than 100 deaths and 235 injuries, and has ordered the trial to be retried.
The Court of Appeals ruled in August 2021 in favor of a trial court’s decision to acquit in 2020 the thirteen defendants, including the Bin Laden Group, the company at the helm of the Grand Mosque expansion project.
Previously, a court had ruled in October 2017 in favor of acquitting the defendants, all of whom were charged with negligence for the event, which left 108 dead and 238 injured, and noted that the fall of the crane was due to rain and high winds.
Bin Laden Group, which is owned by the family of the late Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden, argued during investigations that there were sudden wind shifts that caused the crane to fall on hundreds of pilgrims.
However, the Supreme Court has decided to overturn all previous rulings and has ordered that all cases be re-examined in a new judicial circuit that excludes all judges who have already been involved in the case, the ‘Saudi Gazette’ newspaper reported.
The court has recalled that the Ministry of Finance filed a petition to remove the crane from the area and added that the defendants did not present evidence to support its continued presence at the site, before stressing that no evidence has been presented to support that the boom remained raised either.
The Supreme Court has therefore argued that the incident points to an absence of precaution over the lives of pilgrims prior to the event, which took place on September 11, 2015, at the height of ‘Hajj’, the main pilgrimage to Mecca.
“It has been determined during the considerations of the case that there was an insufficient investigation into the existence of a weather alert related to the incident in relation to the direction and speed of the wind,” he has explained, before pointing to the lack of competence of some workers and inspectors.