Wife of worker who died due to methane poisoning rejects 1 mln lira worth ‘blood money,’ seeks justice

Wife of worker who died due to methane poisoning rejects 1 mln lira worth ‘blood money,’ seeks justice

İsmail Saymaz – MUĞLA
Wife of worker who died due to methane poisoning rejects 1 mln lira worth ‘blood money,’ seeks justice The wife of one of the seven workers who died in the Aegean province of Muğla’s Güllük district after being poisoned from methane gas at a wastewater refining facility in 2013 said she turned down 1 million Turkish Liras worth of “blood money” that was offered by the sewage treatment firm in return for her to drop the charges against them. 

“They were making my husband go down that well; they had been making him clean the waste with his hands. This is ruthlessness, cruelty… They pressured me so much to take that 1 million. Both the company and those around me; they said I was crazy for not taking it. I said, ‘Whatever justice and law is, that is it,’” Mevlüt Özbakar’s wife, Kerime Özbakar, said. 

On June 17, 2013, Mevlüt Özbakar lost his life at a sewage treatment facility after an elevator broke down and Özbakar had to go down the well himself to fix it. Özbakar subsequently fainted inside the well that day after being exposed to methane gas before six others, including the facility manager who went down the well to rescue him, were similarly poisoned, losing their lives. 

A lawsuit was then opened into the Tepe-Akfen Water and Sewage Treatment Ltd., a contractor firm with which the Güllük Municipality had signed a contract to operate the facility, for negligence.  

During the lawsuit process, six workers’ families received “blood money” ranging from 150,000 to 850,000 liras offered by the firm, which later led them to drop the charges under the condition that they cannot appeal the decision. The families then signed the “Blood Money Renunciation Letter and Memorandum,” ratified by the Milas first notary office. Kerime Özbakar was the only one who did not accept the firm’s offer. 

“I did not accept that money because my husband does not deserve these. I am not sorry… Am I wrong to have trusted justice? Then let justice show its response in return. Who else am I to trust but the state? I did not accept the money because I have trust in it,” she said.  

The lawsuit was opened at the Muğla 2nd Heavy Penal Court against some 25 suspects, including Akfen Holding, İller Bank, and Güllük Municipality executives on charges of “causing involuntary manslaughter.” 

On July 4, the last expert’s report to the court said some 20 suspects were guilty. It said the suspects were responsible for the air-conditioning and gas measurement device deficiencies at the facility. The report also noted the Güllük Municipality had not conducted an inspection for the last four years and thus did not notice the elevator system had been broken down. But the deceased seven workers were also found guilty in the report for their “careless behaviors” although they had “enough work experience on the field.”