All suspects deny shortcomings in Soma mine accident hearing
MANİSA – Anadolu Agency
AA PhotoThe suspects in Turkey’s worst-ever mine disaster denied responsibility for the 2014 accident during the fifth hearing on April 20, precipitating anger among the families of the 301 victims in the courthouse.
The court listened to the testimonies of six suspects – Fuat Aydın Ünal, Serkan Kocaman, Soner Günay, Nazmi Cem Nesimoğulları, Hüseyin Alkan and Batuhan Ünlüyol – who are being tried without arrest, in the fifth hearing held in Manisa’s Akhisar district on April 20.
Fuat Aydın Ünal, an engineer who was responsible for the air conditioning at the Eynez mine in Soma, said he signed off on another person’s inspection of air quality, even though he was required to do the check himself.
Ünal said it was his responsibility to fill the notebook about the air quality data inside the mine, but mining engineer Harun Kaymaz wrote the data in the notebook on the day of accident. “The air notebook is 111 pages, but I only filled 19 pages. On April 30, 2014, Harun Yıldırım said he filled the notebook by copying the data from previous days and I signed it. I had to sign it. I did not have enough time to make measurements and write it down. I could not follow the gas data in the mine,” he added.
Ünal, who has worked in the mine since 2013, said he was the only engineer in the mine who was responsible for the air quality in a 10-kilometer-long web of tunnels.
Still, he rejected claims that the air quality was not sufficient for the miners, while saying he had not witnessed any emergency drills for the duration of his employments there.
The engineer added that the masks in the mine had only been checked once.
Esma Kaya, mother of Kader Yıldırım, who died in the mine, showed her reaction to the defenses of the suspects during the hearing.
“You are making me listen to these lies, how am I supposed to be patient?” she said before leaving the courthouse.
In the meantime, some victims’ relatives also reacted when the lawyers of suspects demanded the court change the location of the trials on the ground that the safety of the suspects was at risk.
Can Gürkan, the chief executive of the Soma Kömür mining company, is one of eight former managers standing trial on murder charges over the accident on May 13, 2014, in Soma which left 301 miners dead and exposed shocking safety standards in Turkish mines.
Prosecutors in their indictment have said each of the eight should serve 25-year sentences, multiplied 301 times for each victim, on charges of “killing with probable criminal intent.”
This would result in a total sentence for each suspect of 7,525 years in prison.
Prosecutors say the miners were killed after inhaling gas and toxic smoke from the fire that was caused when an abandoned pile of coal left next to an electrical transformer caught fire.
The eight managers were not brought to court on the first day of the trial on April 13 for security reasons. But the judge agreed to objections from relatives and they appeared for the first time on April 15. Another 37 suspects also on trial face hefty sentences on lesser charges of homicide by negligence.