Court of Appeal upholds acquittal verdict; bringing down curtain on Makkah crane crash case

The Court of Appeal upheld on Wednesday the verdict of the Makkah Criminal Court to acquit all the defendants in the Grand Mosque crane crash case. The verdict is final; bringing down curtain a case that has been in the limelight for a number of years since the crane crash in 2015; Okaz/Saudi Gazette has learned from well informed sources.

In December 2020; the Makkah Criminal Court issued its verdict for the third time; acquitting all the 13 defendants in the case; including the Saudi Bin Laden Group. The court clarified then there was nothing new except what it had ruled earlier and that it will send the copy of the verdict to the Court of Appeal to decide what it deems fit.

In an earlier verdict on Oct. 1; 2017; the Criminal Court had acquitted all the 13 defendants who were charged with negligence. The court said then 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 Sept. 11; 2015. The Makkah court had also ruled that the disaster was caused by heavy rains and thunderstorms; rather than human error or fault. “The crane was in an upright; correct and safe position. There was no error committed by the accused; who had taken all the necessary safety precautions;” the court noted in its decision. The Attorney General objected to the verdict and appealed against it.

However; the Appeals Court in its verdict in December 2017 upheld the previous ruling of the Criminal Court. The Appeals Court cited that the crane; though placed in a safe position; toppled due to a severe thunderstorm and violent winds. The court also directed the Criminal Court to reexamine the case. Accordingly; the court issued its third verdict on Dec. 7; 2020 after reexamining the entire aspects of the crane crash.

It is noteworthy that the Court of Appeal had made six major observations in its earlier ruling. The most prominent among these observations was that the crane collapse was a reality and resulted in deaths and injuries; and the main accused and others suspects cannot deny this. It also noted that the company responsible for the project and the rest of the accused shall bear the accountability of the measures taken to ensure the safety of the huge crane and the safety of worshippers of the House of God from its danger. Later; the Criminal Court addressed the observations made by the Court of Appeal when it reexamined the case.

The Court of Appeal had also stressed the need to clarify; define and know precisely the tasks of the safety division of the Haram project; since the company; which is implementing the project; has an integrated department for monitoring weather fluctuations; which means that it is fully responsible for detecting and forecasting weather conditions and does not need to wait for meteorological reports.

The court rejected the Attorney General’s request to obligate the Bin Laden Group to pay.