A heavy penalty court in the Akhisar district of the Aegean Manisa province handed out jail sentences over the death of 301 miners in Turkey’s deadliest ever mine disaster in the Soma district of the western province of Manisa on May 13, 2014.
The court ruled on July 11 to jail Can Gürkan, the mine owner, for 15 years, and the mine’s general manager, Ramazan Doğru, for 22.5 years.
The mine’s operations director Akın Çelik received a jail sentence of 18.5 years, while his deputy, İsmail Adalı, was given a sentence of 22.5 years.
Fifty-one suspects were accused of failing to provide adequate safety measures leading to Turkey’s worst ever industrial disaster.
A total of 301 jail terms of up to 25 years were sought for each suspect in the case.
The workers were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning after an explosion at the Soma Coal Mine Company’s mine.
More than 700 miners were inside the mine when a fire erupted during a shift change.
Relatives of the slain workers and their lawyers protested what they described as “light sentences.”
Lawyers and relatives walked out of the courtroom when the sentences were announced while some relatives collapsed.
“Would you do the same thing if you had lost your own children?” one relative of a victim scolded the panel of judges.
Several deputies from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and NGOs also followed the trial.
“The indictment originally demanded a prison sentence for Can Gürkan for every single one of the 301 victims on charges of voluntary manslaughter, but the court punished the suspect for involuntary manslaughter, which resulted in a lighter sentence,” said Turkish Union of Bar Associations President Metin Feyzioğlu.
“We will exploit all legal means against the court decision, including appeal,” Feyzioğlu added.
According to an official autopsy report following the accident, most of the miners perished of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The autopsy found toxic gas was produced by a spontaneous fire, which broke out due to coal dumped around a transformer.
Carbon monoxide produced by the fire met fresh air from an inlet, fueling a greater blaze.