The Turkish authorities have arrested 25 people as part of the investigation into the tragedy in Soma coal mine where an explosion last Tuesday killed 301 workers. Three of those arrested have been charged with ” involuntary manslaughter,” according to prosecutor Bekir Sahiner. Among the detainees are several senior Soma Holding, the company that runs the mine, including Ramazan Dogru, COO, and Akin Celik, Chief Engineer.
Celik and others responsible for the mine evaded any responsibility during a press conference last Friday. Then described the sinister accident, which claimed to know the exact cause, and ensured that the mine met safety measures required by law.
A preliminary report on the explosion, cited by the Turkish daily Milliyet, said several failures in safety systems, such as an insufficient number of carbon monoxide detectors and constructed of wood instead of metal roofs.
The Government announced an investigation into the tragedy and during the week, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, had insisted that justice would be done. “After finding who is responsible, there will be no tolerance whether they are public or private sector,” Yildiz had secured.
Critics have accused the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to cede the management of state before the power companies of nearby mines, for whom presumably would have more priority the economic benefits that the safety of workers.
The authorities have not taken any responsibility and a leader of the ruling Party for Justice and Development (AKP) has said that the mine had gone 11 inspections since 2009.
The truth is that Turkey has a poor record regarding accidents in the workplace and, in fact, is the third worst in the world in number of accidents per capita, according to a 2012 report of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Not a signatory to the Convention on the Safety and Health in Mines ILO, and between 1991 and 2008 more than 2,500 miners were killed and more than 13,000 resulted disabled in accidents and work-related diseases, according to a report Turkish think tank TEPAV. Furthermore, opposition MPs have condemned these days, in April, the AKP parliamentary group rejected a request to investigate several accidents in the mines of Soma.
During Erdogan’s visit to the mine on Wednesday, the tension was high and the prime minister was heckled with shouts calling for his resignation. One of his advisers had to apologize publicly following the publication of pictures showing him kicking a protester who was being reduced by two policemen. Erdogan also embroiled himself seemed to at least one other person in a video published by local media.
During the week, there have been public protests against the government in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and the Soma own, which were suppressed by police with water cannons and tear gas. On Saturday, the governor of Manisa banned demonstrations and since then, parts of the city of Soma were taken by the police, which has established roadblocks that give access to the town and the mine, according to media reports local from the field.
Also yesterday 36 people were arrested for allegedly pretending Soma manifest, according to the Turkish Dogan news agency. Among those arrested are eight lawyers from the Association of Progressive Lawyers, which some had traveled to Soma means to assist the families of the victims.
The entrance to the mine is bricked after removal of the last two bodies, which increased the death toll to 301, according to official figures. The last survivor was rescued Wednesday. In total, 787 workers were inside the mine when an explosion caused a fire that trapped hundreds of miners.
In a separate case at the top of the mine, the Office has also filed a lawsuit for fraud and membership of a criminal organization against Alp Gurkan, owner of Soma Holding, who asked for six to 18 years in prison, the newspaper Turkish Hurriyet. Gurkan has been charged along with 16 other suspected of colluding buying property in Istanbul.