16 suspects appear in court in Ermenek mine disaster case

16 suspects appear in court in Ermenek mine disaster case

KARAMAN – Doğan News Agency
16 suspects appear in court in Ermenek mine disaster case

DHA Photo

The first court hearing in the case filed over the Ermenek mine disaster, which left 18 miners dead late last year in the Ermenek district of the Central Anatolian province of Karaman, was held on June 15 with 16 defendants. 

The Ermenek Court for Serious Crimes filed the case after the Ermenek Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office made a 168-page indictment against 16 defendants. Of the defendants, 14 were charged with “carelessly and intentionally causing the death of multiple persons,” one with “unauthorized approval of official documents” and another with “failure to notify officials about the disaster.” 

Three defendants among the 16 were tried as arrested, namely Has Şekerler Mining Company owner Saffet Uyar and Ermenek Cenne Lignite Coal Company Manager and shareholder Abdullah Özbey and technical staff member Ali Kurt. 

The other 13 defendants, including Ermenek Cenne Lignite Mining Company Managing Staff Mehmet Zeybek and a mining engineer from the Has Şekerler Mining Company, were tried without arrest.

A total of 62 plaintiffs, including the families and colleagues of the fallen miners, were involved in the case.

The court session was held in an 80-seat court hall and 27 people, including Zeybek, widows who lost their husbands in the accident, members of the dead miner’s families and attorneys representing both the victims and the defendants were present. 

Some of the relatives of the dead shouted “You shamelessly offer us money to give up on the case!” during the nerve-wrecking court session, in which gendarmerie forces were also present.

The police also cordoned off the court building ahead of the session and heavy security measures were taken around the area.

The indictment read out during the court session said the Has Şekerler coal pit had no alarm system for evacuation in case of an emergency, even though such a system was required by law. It stressed some miners who were at a distant location from the flood had wasted time due to the lack of an alarm system.

The plea of Yavuz Özsoy, one of the defendants, was also read out from the indictment. Özsoy said in his testimony he saw “water dropping from various points in the coal pit.”

“The water was natural and drinkable. It had no smell. So I thought there was no problem,” he said. “How stupid to analyze water by tasting it,” a relative of a miner shouted in response. 

Water accumulating in an old pit flooded a lignite coal pit in the Pamuklu village of Ermenek, Karaman on Oct. 28, 2014, trapping and killing the 18 miners.