Dozens on trial over Turkey's worst mining disaster

2015-04-17 11:42
People stand in front of a hospital as they wait for news of relatives in Soma. (Bulent Kilic, AFP)

People stand in front of a hospital as they wait for news of relatives in Soma. (Bulent Kilic, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Akhisar - Dozens of suspects go on trial Monday over modern Turkey's worst mining disaster that left 301 miners dead in the western town of Soma and tarnished the image of the government under Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Forty-five people are to stand trial, including eight former top managers from the Soma Komur group that ran the mine who are charged with murder.

The trial, which is expected to be lengthy, is being heard around 50km from Soma in western Turkey by a court in the town of Akhisar. It is scheduled to get underway at 06:30.

The accident on May 13, 2014 raised new concerns about Turkey's dire industrial safety record and exposed the lacklustre reaction of the government led by Erdogan, now president but then premier.

Erdogan had notoriously appeared to play down the disaster, saying that "accidents are in the nature of the business" and comparing it to accidents in Industrial Revolution-era Britain.


The tragedy sparked protests that rattled the government a year after the mass anti-government rallies in Istanbul and elsewhere, with an advisor to Erdogan raising tensions by kicking a protestor in Soma in an incident caught on camera.

The disaster happened when one of the pits of the Soma mine became engulfed by flames and carbon monoxide gas, trapping a team of some 800 miners working inside.

Prosecutors say that 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.

Many miners died within minutes and only those working far from the centre of the fire managed to escape to the surface.

The body of the last miner missing was brought to the surface four days later, bringing the final toll to 301 dead and 162 wounded.

'Danger of death'

A report after the disaster found a long list of faults at the mine, including a lack of carbon monoxide detectors, gas masks in poor condition and bad ventilation.

Lawyers for the families of the victims say that the owners of the Soma mine had sought over-exploitation for the sake of profit, resulting in "working conditions worthy of slavery".

"The management of the mine were perfectly aware of the danger of death which was hanging over the workers," a lawyer for the victims, Selcuk Kozagacli, told AFP.

The eight top managers from Soma Komur on trial, including chief executive Can Gurkan and general manager Ramazan Dogru, have been charged by prosecutors with murder in an unusual move for an industrial accident trial.

Prosecutors have requested they be sentenced to 25 years in prison for every single one of the 301 victims.

‘Reckless homicide’

Other company officials have been charged with homicide by conscious negligence or reckless homicide, and also face lengthy jail terms.

For security reasons, the judge has ruled that the eight former managers incarcerated in Izmir will give their statements via video link, according to Dogan News Agency (DHA).

In expectation of possible tensions, police have been drafted in from surrounding regions to ensure order outside the court. A building usually used as a cultural centre has been turned into a court to accommodate the scale of the trial.

A month after the disaster, the government pushed through parliament a law aimed at improving Turkey's standards of labour safety.

But Turkey was hit by a new mining disaster in October 2014 when 18 miners were killed after floodwaters engulfed their mine in the southern region of Karaman.

Read more on:    turkey

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.