April 13, 2015 / 9:34 AM / 3 years ago

Iran suspends Saudi pilgrimage flights over sexual assault allegations

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has suspended flights to Saudi Arabia for the year-round Umrah Islamic pilgrimage over allegations that Saudi security officers sexually assaulted two Iranian boys, Culture Minister Ali Jannati said on Monday.

The move is likely to deepen tensions between the two regional powers, who are at odds over the war in Yemen.

The teenage boys alleged last week that the officers abused them while conducting a security search at Jeddah airport.

“Until these guilty people are put on trial and punished, the Umrah will be stopped and Iranian flights will be suspended,” the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) cited Jannati as saying.

The boys were returning to Tehran from the Umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of the year other than during the Hajj.

Several hundred protesters marched on the Saudi embassy in Tehran on Saturday, despite a ban on public demonstrations.

Jannati said the Saudi authorities had arrested the perpetrators and promised to punish them, ISNA reported.

Reporting by Sam Wilkin; Editing by Michael Georgy and John Stonestreet

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