Iran vows legal action against Saudi Arabia over the Hajj stampede

Iran has vowed to take international legal action against Saudi Arabia’s rulers over the crush of pilgrims during this year’s Hajj, which killed at least 769 people. The worst disaster to befall the event in a quarter of a century occurred on 24 September as two large groups of pilgrims arrived at a crossroads in Mina.

Saudi health minister Khalid al-Falih told a news conference that the death toll had risen  as a number of people died in “various hospitals since the event”, adding that 934 people were wounded. Iran says that at least 136 Iranians are among the dead, while more than 300 other Iranians remain unaccounted for, including former ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi, the Fars news agency reported.

“We will urge international courts and circles to start the trial of the Saudis for their crimes against Hajj pilgrims,” Iran’s Prosecutor General Ebrahim Raisi was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency yesterday. “This is not incompetence, it’s a crime,” Mr Raisi said. He has accused Saudi authorities of blocking a road used by Hajj pilgrims to allow a royal convoy to pass through – which he alleged led to the convergence – something Saudi authorities have denied.

Iran’s foreign ministry also summoned the Saudi chargé d’affaires for a third time in three days to protest about Riyadh’s handling of the disaster

26 September was the last day of the Hajj, with pilgrims streaming through Mina. Samar Zaki, 37, a Syrian pilgrim, said there were times when she was in the midst of very large crowds that she worried for her safety. “There are times when it is challenging,” she said. “I saw [news] about the accident that took place and it made us all very upset.”

Speaking to the country’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s top cleric Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh said he did not hold authorities responsible for the disaster. “You are not responsible for what happened. You dealt with the beneficial factors that were in your hands and within your ability. Fate and destiny are inevitable.”

Reuters; AP

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