Iran to sue Saudi Arabia over haj stampede

Pilgrims and volunteers walk along a street in front of a hospital near the site of a stampede earlier in the day in the Mina neighborhood of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Sept 24, 2015.
Pilgrims and volunteers walk along a street in front of a hospital near the site of a stampede earlier in the day in the Mina neighborhood of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Sept 24, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

TEHERAN • Iranian Attorney-General Ibrahim Raeesi said yesterday that the Islamic republic will file a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia with international legal bodies after the deadly stampede during the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca.

The Saudi health ministry said the death toll from last Friday's stampede at Jamarat Bridge in Mina - just outside the holy city of Mecca - had risen to 769 from an initial 717 dead. More than 130 of the dead were Iranians, Teheran said.

"We will ask for the Al-Saud (ruling family in the Gulf kingdom) to be tried for this crime against the pilgrims before international courts," Mr Raeesi was quoted as saying.

He also called on the Saudi government to locate more than 340 of its nationals still missing and "to put those responsible on trial".

Iranian leaders have condemned Saudi authorities over what they charge were flawed safety measures at the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual where the tragedy struck.

Saudi Arabia's top religious leader reportedly said that the stampede was beyond human control.

"You are not responsible for what happened," Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh told Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in a meeting in Mina last Friday, the official Saudi Press Agency reported yesterday.

"As for the things that humans cannot control, you are not blamed for them. Fate and destiny are inevitable," the Sheikh told the Prince, who is also the Interior Minister.

Prince Mohammed, who chairs the Saudi haj committee, has ordered an investigation. Saudi Arabia yesterday deployed large numbers of special forces troops as undeterred pilgrims continued to flood the area on the last day of the haj.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 27, 2015, with the headline 'Iran to sue Saudi Arabia over haj stampede'. Print Edition | Subscribe