Istanbul — On Wednesday, a Turkish court jailed the CEO of the Soma mine, where 301 people were killed in May 2014 in Turkey’s worst ever mining disaster, for 15 years.
After a trial lasting more than three years, the court in the western Turkish town of Akhisar handed heavy sentences to the former CEO of the Soma mine, Can Gurkan, and four other senior managers at the mine. Gurkan was jailed for 15 years by the Akhisar court, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
The mine’s GM Ramazan Dogru and technical manager Ismail Adali were handed prison sentences of 22 years and six months, and operations manager Akin Celik and technical supervisor Ertan Ersoy 18 years and nine months. Further verdicts for lower-ranking suspects were due to be announced after a break.
However, the verdicts given by the Akhisar court — 50km from Soma in western Turkey — were far lighter than sought by prosecutors when the trial started in April 2015. Prosecutors had then requested that the top managers be sentenced to 25 years in prison for every single one of the 301 victims.
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 President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time.
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 that was caused when an abandoned pile of coal left next to an electrical transformer caught fire.
Erdogan notoriously appeared to play down the disaster, saying "accidents are in the nature of the business" and comparing it to accidents in industrial revolution-era Britain.