Suspects in Soma mine disaster demand acquittal
ISTANBULAlp Gürkan, the former chair of Soma Holding, which owned a mine that was the site of Turkey’s worst-ever mine disaster in 2014, demanded his acquittal at his first hearing on Dec. 26, Doğan News Agency has reported.
Gürkan said he resigned as chair of the company on December 2013 and handed over the baton to his son due to his old age.
“I do not know what happened in the company after me. I appointed Ramazan Doğru to the board of company because my son had no interest and knowledge about mining. The company complied with regulations until my retirement. I do not think any steps were taken against the regulations. I followed all the reports after the mine collapse. The reports which were made by experts were just fiction,” he said.
He said also in his defense that there were no accidents at the mine until 2014.
“All the mines in the Soma district are susceptible to fire. But we fought the fires with our team to extinguish them. There were also no accidents between 2009 and 2014,” he added.
He also answered questions from complainants’ lawyers as to why he was the chair of the Tilaga Mining Company even though he said he had retired due to old age.
“After the incident, all of the executives of the company were arrested. So I had to take over the company’s administration. But I appointed a general manager to the company,” he said.
Meanwhile, one of the other suspects in the disaster, Mustafa Yiğit, also demanded his acquittal, saying he denied the indictment.
Some 37 complainants also attended the hearing, occasionally protesting the suspects during the trial.
An expert report prepared on Oct. 22, 2015, by seven experts from Istanbul Technical University into the disaster stated that the owner of the mine and state institutions responsible for mining facilities, including the Labor and Social Security Ministry, were responsible for the tragedy that killed 301 miners.
The expert report demanded by a court in the western province of Manisa stated that the Soma Coal Mine Company was 70 percent responsible for the incident at the mine, the Turkish Coal Enterprises (TKİ) was 15 percent responsible, the General Directorate of Mining Affairs (MİGEM) was 10 percent culpable while the Labor and Social Security Ministry was 5 percent responsible.
Accidents have beset Turkey’s mining industry in recent years, with 16 miners killed in the Siirt mine in southeastern Turkey in Dec. 2016.
In October 2014, 18 died in a flood at a coal mine in Ermenek in the Central Anatolian province of Karaman.