Saudi court drops case over crane collapse that killed 111

January 26, 2017

CAIRO (AP) — A Saudi court on Thursday dropped its case against 13 defendants who were on trial over a crane collapse in Mecca in September 2015 that killed 111 pilgrims.

The Mecca Criminal Court said in its ruling that it has no jurisdiction to rule on the case, which opened last August. Fourteen people had initially gone on trial, accused of negligence, damaging public property and ignoring safety guidelines.

The court did not mention the discrepancy in the number of defendants, and it was unclear if the ruling was the final chapter of litigation in the matter.

Hundreds more were injured in the collapse, which happened just days before the start of an annual hajj pilgrimage that was overshadowed by an even larger stampede disaster.

State-linked newspapers had said six Saudis, including a billionaire, two Pakistanis, a Canadian, a Jordanian, a Palestinian, an Egyptian, an Emirati and a Filipino had gone on trial. The defendants’ names were not made public.

It appears all defendants were employees of the Saudi Binladin Group, the construction giant that was operating the German-made crane.

Amid unusually strong winds, the 1,350-ton crane collapsed onto the Grand Mosque that houses Islam’s holiest site, the cube-shaped Kaaba, bringing down slabs of concrete on worshippers below.

The tragedy on Sept. 11 was the first of two major incidents to mar that year’s hajj. A stampede and crush of pilgrims killed more than 2,400 people on Sept. 24, according to an Associated Press count.

After the crane incident, King Salman partly blamed the construction giant, saying the crane’s arm should not have been left up when it was not in use.

The king ordered 1 million riyals ($267,000) to be paid to the relatives of those killed, and the same amount to those permanently injured. Those with lesser injuries were to receive half that amount. The compensation did not prevent the victims or their families from seeking other damages.

Victims and families of victims could not be immediately reached for comment on the ruling.

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