Turkish prosecutors demand life sentences for eight Soma mine managers

Turkish prosecutors demand life sentences for eight Soma mine managers

Turkish prosecutors demand life sentences for eight Soma mine managers

Members of a parliamentary commission into the incident shared pictures taken during the visit inside the disaster-struck mine facility as part of a parliamentary investigation. DHA Photo

Prosecutors have pressed murder charges and demanded aggravated life sentences against eight managers of the disaster-struck Soma mine that claimed the lives of 301 workers on May 13.

The seven suspects facing life sentences include Can Gürkan, the CEO of Soma Coal Mine Company that owned the facility, as well as General Manager Ramazan Doğru. Both managers had been in the spotlight after the accident, as judges refused demands to arrest the owner of the company, Alp Gürkan.

Operating Manager Akın Çelik, shift supervisors Yasin Kurnaz, Hilmi Kazık and İsmail Adalı, as well as technicians Ertan Ersoy and Mehmet Ali Günay also face life sentences, according to the first summary of proceedings sent to the Prosecutors’ Office.

Prosecutors charged eight other company officials of “homicide by conscious negligence,” demanding prison sentences between 32 months and 20 years.

Some 29 other company officials were charged with reckless homicide by prosecutors and will stand trial facing between two and 15 years of prison.

Lawyers representing the victims in Turkey's worst ever industrial disaster described the murder charges and heavy prison sentences as “historic,” but stressed that the summary of proceedings is not the definitive indictment that will be submitted to the court.

“Until now, no murder sentences have been given in similar cases,” said Zeynel Balkız, the head of the province of Manisa’s bars association.

Balkız, however, urged both the Energy and Labor Ministries to accept the prosecutors’ request of investigation, adding that many high-level official had been identified as negligent in the expert report, including the head of the General Directorate of Mine Affairs. “We want them to be punished too,” Balkız said.

While the long-awaited trial is expected to start in a few months, activity has begun at two other facilities owned by Soma Coal Mining Company in Soma, the mining capital of the Aegean region.

For their part, miners at the accident-struck Eynez facility complained that promises given by officials have not been kept. The miners had even begun a march from Soma to the Turkish capital in protest, though it was eventually prevented by police officers.

The May accident sent shockwaves through Turkey, drawing delayed attention to the lack of job security and sparking outcry against companies making millions of dollars of profit without investing in their workers’ safety.

In a recent landmark decision, five managers of the state-run Karadon Mine in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak were sentenced to 10 years 'n prison for a deadly accident that killed 30 workers.