15.3 C
Frankfurt am Main

Justice remains elusive a decade after Turkey’s worst mining disaster

Must read

Ten years have passed since Turkey’s worst mining disaster took the lives of hundreds, with people who lost relatives in the accident complaining about the lack of justice, frustrated with the courts’ decisions in the trial, in which none of the suspects are currently behind bars.

A total of 301 miners died and 162 workers were injured in a fire inside a coal mine in the Soma district of Manisa province in May 2014. The deaths were caused by carbon monoxide spread through the mine by the fire.

The court acquitted Alp Gürkan, the owner of Soma Holding and the father of CEO Can Gürkan, while sentencing Can Gürkan to 15 years; three other executives from the company were given 18 to 22 years.

The 14th criminal chamber of the İzmir Regional Court upheld the prison sentences for five defendants in April 2019, releasing Can Gürkan on appeal the same day.

The 12th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals reversed the decision in September 2020, and all the defendants were released on February 5, 2021, pending retrial.

The retrial started in April 2021, and the Akhisar 1st Criminal Court of Peace in June 2021 sentenced Can Gürkan to 20 years in prison on charges of involuntary manslaughter, also handing down a prison sentence of 12 years, six months to two mining engineers, while an executive board member of the mining company who was referred to as the manager responsible for an emergency action plan in the expert reports was acquitted.

The prison sentences were upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals in April 2022.

The trial of 28 public officials – including inspectors from the energy and labor ministries – who were responsible for the inspection of the mine began last week, nearly 10 years after the tragedy.

In the first hearing, the Soma court adjourned the proceedings until September 12 after denying a request from labor unions and bar associations to become co-plaintiffs in the trial.

The indictment, which charged the suspects only with “abuse of public office” and not more serious charges such as “causing the death and injury of more than one person with conscious negligence” and “killing with probable intent,” drew criticism from the victims’ lawyers.

Naciye Kaya, who lost her husband in the disaster, on Monday told Evrensel daily that their search for justice as the victims’ relatives has yielded no results in the past 10 years.

“However, we will continue to search for justice as long as we are alive. Our husbands, 301 victims, will not come back, but what we are doing is trying to prevent such a tragedy from happening again,” Kaya added.

Arzu Çerkezoğlu, the chairwoman of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), also said their “pain and anger have not diminished in the past decade” because miners in Turkey have not been provided with working conditions befitting human dignity and protecting them from danger.

Main opposition leader calls for retrial in Soma case

Özgür Özel, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), visited the Soma Municipality on Monday and called for a retrial in the case, underlining that the “illegal interference in justice” related to the case must be acknowledged in the new political climate in the country following the March 31 local elections.

Özel’s CHP emerged as the leading party for the first time in 47 years, securing 37.7 percent of the vote, maintaining control of key cities and securing substantial gains in other regions in the recent elections, while President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), for the first time in 22 years, came in second, garnering only 35.4 percent of the vote. The CHP’s election success has given it more leverage in issues overlooked by the AKP.

The CHP leader also posted a tweet stating that his party would continue its struggle for the Soma case to be heard again and for justice to be served.

“May our hearts dry up if we stop without holding those people who are responsible for [the death of] the Soma miners accountable,” Özel added.

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