hajj mecca 2014
Iran suspends pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia after alleged sexual assault on Iranian boys by Saudi police.Reuters

Iran has halted all pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia in protest against the alleged sexual abuse of two Iranian boys at the hands of Saudi police, Culture ministry said on Monday 13 April.

The decision comes over the alleged sexual abuse by Saudi police of two teenage Iranian boys who were travelling home through the Jeddah airport after pilgrimage to Mecca and Medinah in March.

Urging the Saudi government to apply "capital punishment", Culture Ministry spokesman Hossein Nooshabadi told state TV that all pilgrimages will be suspended until Saudi Arabia applies a "strong attitude" towards the case.

"I have ordered the Hajj and Pilgrimage Organisation to suspend the lesser pilgrimage until the criminals are tried and punished," Culture Minister Ali Jannati told state television.

"Considering what has happened, Iranians' dignity has been damaged and a public demand has formed. We have spoken to Saudi officials through diplomatic channels and they have promised to punish the persons in custody.

"They even asserted that they would execute them but nothing has been done in reality so far."

Details of the sexual abuse still remain unclear, however public anger has fast grown over the incident with protesters gathering outside the Saudi Embassy in Tehran on 11 April.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered an investigation into the incident.

Saudi officials have so far not released any official statement on the case. However, Jannati said Saudi authorities have arrested the two accused police officers.

An estimated 600,000 Iranians have been reported to visit Saudi Arabia every year for Umrah and Hajj pilgrimages.

Growing tensions over Yemen

Amid growing tensions between the two countries, an Iranian plane carrying pilgrims was denied entry into the Kingdom over not having permission to use the country's airspace, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are also rife over the Saudi-led campaign against Shi'ite rebels in Yemen.

Iran has condemned the campaign and denied all Saudi accusations claiming Tehran is arming the rebels.