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Cairo: Saudi Arabia has launched a prosecution branch tasked with handling cases related to the annual Hajj rites and Umrah or lesser pilgrimage, Saudi media reported.

The kingdom’s Attorney General Saud bin Abdullah Al Mujib opened the prosecution office located next to the Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, in Mecca.

The Hajj and Umrah prosecution specialises in providing justice protection for the rites, pilgrims and take legal procedures against criminal offences violating them.

It will also ensure that the Hajj and Umrah pilgrims enjoy their rights and guarantees enshrined in law, Saudi newspaper Okaz said.

The paper quoted Al Mujib as underlining the necessity of fast-tracking cases handled by the Hajj and Umrah prosecution and implementing measures against misconduct affecting serenity of the rites and sanctity of the sites in line with disciplinary procedures and judicial powers granted to prosecutors.

“All forms of criminal offences against pilgrims are prohibited. So is the exploitation of religious rites or holy places,” he said.

The launch of this prosecution coincides with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan when Umrah at the Grand Mosque usually peaks.

Saudi Arabia expects the number of Umrah pilgrims since the onset of the season last July will reach 9 million by the end of Ramadan.

Hajj, one of Islam’s five pillars, is due this year in late June. Muslims, who can physically and financially afford Hajj, have to perform it at least once in a lifetime.

Millions of Muslims, who cannot afford Hajj rituals physically or financially, annually flock to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah.