Turkey mine chiefs on trial over Soma tragedy

GMT 12:18 2015 Wednesday ,15 April

Arab Today, arab today Turkey mine chiefs on trial over Soma tragedy

The mother of a dead miner
Akhisar - AFP

Eight former managers from the mine where Turkey's worst mining disaster occurred in May 2014 appeared in court Wednesday on murder charges, with prosecutors demanding they spend the rest of their lives in jail.

Three-hundred-and-one workers were killed in the disaster at the Soma coal mine in western Turkey that exposed horrendous safety shortcomings in the country's mining industry.

Relatives of the victims burst into tears in the courtroom.

"My daughter was just three days old when her father died!" shouted one widow. "May Allah burn these sinners in hell for eternity," yelled another.

A total of 45 suspects are on trial over the tragedy but eight former managers from the Soma Komur group that ran the mine have been accused of "killing with probable criminal intent" and risk spending the rest of their lives in jail.

The eight, who include former chief executive Can Gurkan and general manager Ramazan Dogru, were not brought to the court on the first day of the trial on Monday for security reasons.

However this infuriated the relatives of the victims and the judge rapidly adjourned the trial, ruling the eight should appear on Wednesday.

The eight arrived at the court in the early morning, entering by the back door and protected by 250 members of the security forces, police said.

In his initial testimony read by a clerk, Gurkan said he could not be held responsible for the safety problems at the mine.

"I am not an engineer, a technician or a workplace safety expert. I am just an executive and as I have no technical expertise I cannot be held responsible for the accident," he said.

Prosecutors say that the miners were killed after inhaling gas and toxic smoke from the fire which was caused when an abandoned pile of coal left next to an electrical transformer caught fire.

Prosecutors in their indictment asked for 25 year sentences for each of the eight, multiplied 301 times for every victim.

This would result in a total sentence for each of 7,525 years in prison.

They also face three-year sentences for each of the more than 160 wounded. The terms of the indictment were confirmed at Wednesday's hearing.

The other 37 suspects also face hefty sentences on charges of homicide by negligence.

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