According to Ayatollah Sayyed Ahmad Khatami on Monday, 7,000 pilgrims lost their lives last year in the “fire of Al Saud crimes” in the worst disaster in the pilgrimage’s history.
“There is no doubt that Al Saud rulers are not the accused but the frontline criminals in the Mina disaster and are culpable at the least,” he told worshipers during Eid al-Adha prayers in Tehran.
“These criminals must be tried in Islamic courts and receive due punishment,” Ayatollah Khatami added.
The stampede happened in Mina near Makkah on September 24, 2015 when two large masses of pilgrims converged at a crossroads during the symbolic stoning of Satan in Jamarat. At least 460 Iranian pilgrims lost their lives in the tragedy - the biggest toll by a single country.
Iran decided not to send its pilgrims this year because of “obstacles” created by Saudi Arabia and Saudi authorities’ failure to guarantee their safety.
The events which led to the stampede as well as Saudi authorities’ handling of its aftermath drew widespread criticism and raised serious questions about their ability to manage the massive event.
Ayatollah Khatami said, “The Mina disaster showed that Al Saud rulers do not deserve to manage the Two Noble Sanctuaries and a board of Muslim elites is needed to take up the responsibility or at least administer Hajj rituals.”
The senior cleric touched on the chaos following the disaster, saying Saudi authorities had deliberately refused to aid those caught up in the mayhem, and decided to watch pilgrims die through closed-circuit television cameras instead.
“If they had taken water with helicopters, they could have saved the lives of many Muslims. Moreover, they didn’t allow Iranian workers to help and their own workers did not make any effort to save lives.”
Ayatollah Khatami described the tragedy as a grave test for the international community, which it had failed through its silence.
“Had a thousandth of this disaster happened in European countries, international organizations would have made ears deaf with their cries but they didn’t raise a voice after 7,000 people lost their lives.”
The cleric called on Saudi authorities to form a fact-finding committee to investigate the incident.
“If you are not a criminal, then let a fact-finding committee be formed so that the truth about the Mina disaster comes to light,” Ayatollah Khatami said.