15.3 C
Frankfurt am Main

Turkish court arrests opposition mayor over deadly cable car accident

Must read

In a development seen as politically motivated by many, a Turkish court has ruled for the arrest of the opposition mayor of a district in southern Antalya province along with four others over a cable car accident last week that left one person dead, according to a statement from Turkey’s justice minister.

Ten people were also injured in the accident, which happened late Friday afternoon in the resort city of Antalya when a supporting pylon collapsed. The accident also left 174 passengers, including children, stranded in mid-air for hours. Rescue workers were able to evacuate them hours later on Saturday.

Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç on Sunday announced on X the arrest of five people among 14 detained as part of an investigation into the accident launched by the Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. He said nine of the detainees were released, eight of them under judicial supervision.

Mesut Kocagöz, mayor of the Kepez distict of Antalya, who was elected from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in the March 31 local elections, is among those arrested on charges of “causing the death and injury of more than one person through negligence.”

Kocagöz’s arrest is linked to his former position as the chairman of ANET, a subsidiary of the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality, responsible for the operating of the Tünektepe cable car system that crashed on Friday.

Kocagöz and his party say the arrest is politically motivated. CHP supporters, local officials and lawmakers gathered in front of the Antalya Courthouse, the CHP provincial branch and Antalya Prison to protest the arrest of the mayor following the court’s decision on Sunday.

CHP Chairman Özgür Özel said at a time when no public official has stood trial due to tragedies in Soma or İliç, the arrest of Kocagöz is not a legal decision but a politically motivated one.

Özel was referring to the 2014 death of 301 miners in western Turkey in the country’s deadliest mining accident and the death of nine workers in a landslide at a gold mine in eastern Turkey earlier this year. The remains of eight of them are still under the soil, while one body was recently retrieved.

“You cannot scapegoat our mayor just because he’s from our party,” Özel said.

Antalya Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Muhittin Böcek released a written statement about the arrest of Kocagöz, saying that it was interesting that judicial authorities have never been so quick to bring public officials to justice in similar tragedies that took place in the country in the past.

According to Turkish media reports, Kocagöz told prosecutors that he resigned from ANET in November 2023 to be able to run in the local elections in March 2024. He said the routine and heavy maintenance work of the cable car system was done regularly during the time he served as the company’s chairman and that reports about the maintenance work are available and will be submitted to the court.

Kocagöz also said he has no responsibility for the maintenance work conducted after he parted ways with the company.

Kocagöz, a former member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), had been expelled from the party in the run-up to the local elections in 2019. He subsequently joined the ranks of the CHP.

Some social media users also found Kocagöz’s speedy arrest to have been politically motivated, with some bringing attention the lack of legal action against public officials due to their role in the death of thousands of people in major earthquakes last year.

The earthquakes, which devastated 11 provinces in Turkey’s south and southeast, left more than 53,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands injured or displaced while causing massive damage.

Although the trials of real estate developers, building inspectors and technical personnel have started in recent months and news of the conviction of some of them has begun to emerge, not a single public official, elected mayor or city council member has yet faced trial for their role in approving numerous construction projects that fell far short of safe building standards or for failing to take measures to protect people living in buildings known to have structural problems in a region with a high risk of seismic activity.

Meanwhile, the arrest of the CHP mayor comes at a time when the AKP sustained its worst election defeat in the local elections of March 31, while the CHP emerged as the most successful party, retaining many municipalities it won in 2019 and winning others previously known as AKP strongholds.

Liked it? Take a second to support Turkish Minute on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!
More News
Latest News