Police intervene against protesters at Soma mine blast site
Police square off against Soma locals as grief in the western district gives way to fury at the government over the perceived shortcomings of its response to the disaster. DHA PhotoTurkish riot police fired tear gas on May 16 at thousands of protesters at the scene of a disaster that killed nearly 300 miners, as the government faced a worsening political backlash.
Police used tear gas, water cannon and plastic bullets to disperse demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans in the western town of Soma, where at least 284 people died in a blast at a coal mine this week.
Some protesters hurled stones at the police, according to AFP reporters on the ground. At least five people including two police were wounded and there were reports of some arrests.
On May 17, upward of 10 lawyers were also detained by police in Soma, with some of them being dragged on the ground by officers in the process.
Efkan Bolaç and Selçuk Kozağaçlı, two lawyers from the Contemporary Lawyers' Association (ÇHD), were among those who were detained with rough-house tactics.
Some plainclothes people standing next to the police were also heard to be harassing journalists, shouting "What are you doing in Soma? We don't want you here," and "You're coming and stirring things up. We don't any strangers here," according to daily soL.
The Manisa Governor's Office has also banned all demonstrations in Soma.
Mine operator Soma Kömür vehemently denied any allegations of negligence on May 16.
"There is no negligence on our part," the company's general director Akin Celik told reporters at a press conference. "We have all worked very hard. I have not seen such an incident in 20 years."
Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 people were inside the mine when the blast hit, causing a fire that is still raging out of control, with 363 evacuated and 18 still unaccounted for. Most of the victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning.