Soma mine disaster trials commence in Turkey

13 April 2015 (Last Updated April 13th, 2015 18:30)

Turkey has started the trial of 45 managers and employees relating to the Soma mining disaster, which claimed the lives of 301 miners.

Soma mine disaster

Turkey has started the trial of 45 managers and employees relating to the Soma mining disaster, which claimed the lives of 301 miners.

An explosion at the Soma Eynez mine coal mine in Manisa, Turkey on 13 May 2014 caused an underground fire that burned until for two days.

The began on Monday but was adjourned when the victims' lawyer demanded that those facing murder charges should depose in the court in person and not via video link.

The mine is operated by Soma Holding and, following a criminal investigation into the disaster, it was revealed that the accident ocurred due to dangerous working conditions and inadequate infrastructure.

Despite receiving information, the company is said to have ignored warnings about the dangerous gas levels and rising heat in the mine, which were the main causes of the deaths.

"The government's role in the Soma disaster needs to be investigated and corrected if Turkey is going to be able to reverse its terrible record of preventable mine accidents."

US-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch senior Turkey researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb said: "The Soma trial of mine company employees offers victims a chance to get some measure of justice, but the trial does not address the responsibility of state agents who failed in their duty to protect mine workers' lives.

"The government's role in the Soma disaster needs to be investigated and corrected if Turkey is going to be able to reverse its terrible record of preventable mine accidents."

Soma miners and the relatives of miners who died in the accident described the poor working conditions at the mine as well as a string of ineffective inspections and lack of implementation of health and safety standards.

Infrastructure, equipment and materials inadequate for the large number of mine workers were also part of the bad working conditions.

According to Human Rights Watch, the trial in the Akhisar Heavy Penal Court includes charges ranging from 'killing with probable intent' to 'criminally negligent manslaughter' and 'constructive manslaughter.'

Defendants in the trial include managers and senior technical personnel as well as the head of the board of the mining company.


Image: Rescue operations after the Soma mine disaster in Manisa. Photo: courtesy of Mustafa Karaman.