Minister vows legal action for negligence after quake

Minister vows legal action for negligence after quake

Minister vows legal action for negligence after quake

The Bayram Hotel collapsed during an aftershock on Nov 9, 2011, in Van, leaving twenty-four people, including two journalists and a Japanese doctor. AA photo

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin has told families of victims who died at a collapsed hotel during a 5.6-magnitude earthquake in Van on Nov. 9, 2011 that he will order a probe into public officials responsible for neglect.

“Our meeting with the minister was very positive and his approach toward the issue was humanistic. He promised to use his authority to launch a probe against officials via a written order if he deems it necessary after examining the file,” one of the family members told the Hürriyet Daily News on Feb. 20.

Seven families of Nov. 9 earthquake victims met with Ergin yesterday in order to voice their complaints over the absence of legal action against those who were responsible for the neglect of the damaged building.

Twenty-four people, including two reporters from Doğan news agency (DHA), Sebahattin Yılmaz and Cem Emir, as well as Japanese doctor Atsushi Miyazaki, were killed when the Bayram Hotel collapsed during the 5.6-magnitude aftershock on Nov. 9, 2011, following a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Van on Oct. 23, 2011, that killed over 600.

Controversy over which authority provided a passing grade in the damage assessment report for the Bayram Hotel after the 7.2 quake has remained ambiguous. The manager of the Bayram Hotel, Aslan Bayram, said after the 7.2 earthquake that some officials came to his hotel and deemed it habitable. However no Turkish authority has confirmed his claim.

According to an expert report that was issued upon demand by the Van prosecutor, no damage assessment was conducted for the hotel after the first earthquake in 2011.

Families of victims then issued criminal complaints against the governor of Van, officials from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) and the owners of the Bayram Hotel on charges of negligence. Following the criminal complaint, a legal probe by the Van prosecutor was launched and Tevfik Bayram, the owner of the hotel, was arrested on July 2, 2012.

Nonetheless, the prosecutor transferred the complaints against the governor of Van and AFAD officials to the office of the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals, as required by law. The chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals described the allegations as abstract claims and decided that officials should not be subject to investigation.

Since there is no means of appeal against the ruling of the chief prosecutor, the families had asked Ergin to use his authority to launch a probe against officials with a written order.

The families also met with political party groups at Parliament yesterday and asked them to propose opening a parliamentary inquiry into Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, who was in charge of coordination of disaster relief after the Van earthquake.