‘I am not a murderer’, says charged Turkey mine chief

‘I am not a murderer’, says charged Turkey mine chief

MANİSA - Agence France-Presse
‘I am not a murderer’, says charged Turkey mine chief

DHA Photo

The chief executive of the mine where 301 miners died in 2014 in Turkey’s deadliest industrial accident on April 16 insisted he was not a murderer and said he was still struggling to understand the causes of the tragedy.

“What hurt me the most were the charges. I am not a murderer,” Can Gürkan, the chief executive of the Soma Kömür mining company, said on the third day of the trial into the disaster.

Gürkan, 35, is one of eight former managers standing trial on murder charges over the accident on May 13, 2014 in Soma in western Turkey that 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 every victim, on charges of “killing with probable criminal intent”.

This would result in a total sentence for each of 7,525 years in prison for the fatalities.

Prosecutors say the miners were killed after inhaling gas and toxic smoke from the fire which was caused when an abandoned pile of coal left next to an electrical transformer caught fire.

But Gürkan argued that investigators should look to causes other than poor safety standards, saying the mine had a strong safety record and had not skimped on spending.

“I wish we were freed and could do our own research to shed light on the accident,” Gürkan told the court in the town of Akhisar in his first comments in person.

“I’m still struggling to understand what happened and will hopefully come up with an explanation.” Dressed in a dark blue suit and with a full beard, Gürkan appeared composed and sought to directly address the families of the victims.

“I cannot imagine how much pain their families suffer but please be assured that my thoughts and prayers are with them during this trying time.

“Our hearts were set on fire 301 times,” he said.

But relatives shouted in the courtroom: “Don’t pray for us, murderer!” The judge then ordered two relatives of the victims out of the courtroom.

The eight managers were not brought to court on the first day of the trial on Monday for security reasons. But the judge agreed to objections from relatives and they appeared for the first time on Wednesday. Another 37 suspects also on trial face hefty sentences on lesser charges of homicide by negligence.