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Report: Saudi Binladin Group fined over 2015 crane collapse


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A criminal court has imposed a $5.3 million fine on the Saudi BinLadin Group and sentenced seven people to prison over the deadly collapse of a crane ahead of the 2015 hajj pilgrimage, a leading Saudi daily reported.

More than 100 people were killed in the incident. Buffetted by strong winds, the 1,350-ton crane collapsed onto the Grand Mosque that houses Islam’s holiest site, the cube-shaped Kaaba, bringing down slabs of concrete on worshippers below. Less than two weeks after the Sept. 11 crane collapse, a stampede and crush of pilgrims killed more than 2,400 people, according to an Associated Press count.

The Okaz daily reported Tuesday that the company was fined 20 million Saudi riyals, or about $5.3 million, for negligence and violation of safety regulations. Three defendants were sentenced to six months in jail and fined 30,000 riyals ($8,000) and another four were sentenced to three months and fined 15,000 riyals (about $4,000). Okaz did not report their names or nationalities.

The court ruled that the company is not required to pay blood money to the families of those killed, a traditional form of restitution in the conservative kingdom.

The Saudi Binladin Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Binladin family has been close to Saudi Arabia’s ruling family for decades and runs major building projects. Al-Qaida’s late leader Osama bin Laden was a renegade son disowned by the family in the 1990s.

The verdict comes as Saudi Arabia prepares to host the first hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina following the lifting of pandemic restrictions. Millions of Muslims are expected to make the pilgrimage in late June, which in normal years is among the largest gatherings of people on earth.

The twin disasters in 2015 were a source of embarrassment for the Saudi royal family, whose legitimacy partly derives from their role as the custodians of Islam's holiest sites.

At the time, King Salman partly blamed the crane's collapse on the construction giant, saying its arm should not have been left up when it was not in use.