Saudi court acquits 13 accused in Makkah crane crash

 
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Riyadh, Oct 2 (TNS): After more than two years of the unfortunate crane crash incident at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, a penal court acquitted all 13 individuals charged with “negligence leading to death, damaging public property and ignoring safety guidelines”, Saudi media reported on Monday.

The court further said that they are not criminally responsible for the incident in which 108 people lost their lives and another 238 were injured when a crane involved in the Haram expansion project crashed on September 11, 2015, Saudi Gazette reported.

 Objecting to the verdict, the Attorney General has filed for an appeal, which has been approved.

The privately held Binladin Group held the contract for the construction of the multi-billion-dollar expansion project.

The said group is deeply embedded in the Saudi economy, though exactly how much it contributes is not known. “Like most things in Saudi Arabia, its operations and finances are very opaque,” said Jason Tuvey of Capital Economics, a global economics research company.

From unglamourous origins carving roads through the kingdom’s mountains and deserts, the Binladin Group has become one of the largest building firms in the world.

“They are very much embedded in the economy, very well-connected,” said another contractor with long-term experience in the local market.

From universities to airports to hospitals, the Jeddah-based firm has won government projects across the kingdom. It has developed landmarks including the domed Faisaliah Tower in central Riyadh and the Mecca Royal Clock Tower, the world’s third-tallest building.

The firm is also the primary contractor on Jeddah’s $1.2 billion Kingdom Tower, which is to be the world’s tallest building at more than one kilometre (almost 3,300 feet) high.

The tragedy at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi city of Makkah killed at least 108 people and injured about 400, including foreigners who had arrived ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage which began later that month.

During severe winds a construction crane toppled into a courtyard of the Grand Mosque. It was one of several cranes the Saudi Binladin Group had employed as part of a multi-billion-dollar expansion to accommodate increasing numbers of faithful.

Saudi King Salman sanctioned the Binladin Group after he reviewed an investigative committee’s findings that the firm was “in part responsible” for the crane collapse.