Wed May 3, 2017 3:41PM
Muslim pilgrims sit in front of the crane that collapsed the day before at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on September 12, 2015. (Photo by AFP)
Muslim pilgrims sit in front of the crane that collapsed the day before at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on September 12, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

An appeals court in Saudi Arabia has ordered a trial to go ahead in a case that was opened a few months ago to prosecute those responsible for the 2015 deadly crane crash in the holy city of Mecca.

According to Okaz and Saudi Gazette newspapers, the appeals judges on Wednesday overturned an earlier decision by the Mecca Criminal Court that it had no jurisdiction over allegations of "safety breaches."

In late January, the court had decided to drop the case, saying it had no jurisdiction to rule on the matter.

About a dozen defendants had gone on trial over accusations of negligence, ignoring safety guidelines and damaging public property. The defendants included at least one Saudi "billionaire" and nationals of Pakistan, the Philippines, Canada and several Arab countries.

The construction giant Saudi Binladin Group was penalized over the deadly incident. The group was founded decades ago by the father of terrorist group al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was allegedly killed by US commandos in Pakistan in 2011.

On September 11, 2015, a huge construction crane collapsed into Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing more than 100 pilgrims and injuring over 200 others in the lead-up to the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

The figures released by Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization showed that 11 Iranian pilgrims were among the victims while another 32 Iranians were wounded in the crane crash.

About two weeks after the crane crash, a fatal human crush occurred during Hajj rituals in Mina, near Mecca. Unofficial sources put the death toll at almost 7,000 people. Iran said about 465 of its nationals lost their lives in the incident.

Saudi emergency personnel and Hajj pilgrims stand near the bodies covered in sheets at the site of a crush in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, September 24, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Days into the crush, Riyadh gave a death toll of 770, and has so far obstinately refrained from updating that figure despite the fact that figures produced by independent sources strongly contradict Saudi Arabia's estimate.

Observers say the kingdom fears that releasing the real figure will be a clear sign of its catastrophic mismanagement of Hajj rituals.