The trial for the biggest mine disaster in Turkey’s history began this week. A criminal case was brought against the director of the Soma Eynez mining company and 44 employees and engineers for a fire during May 2014 that killed 301 miners and injured 162 others in western Turkey.
“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,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch. “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.”
An investigation into the mine disaster revealed dangerous working conditions and inadequate infrastructure. Prosecutors found that the mining company had been informed of, but apparently ignored, clear warning signs of dangerous levels of gas and heat in the mine, all of which contributed to the deaths.
The trial in the Akhisar Heavy Penal Court includes charges ranging from “killing with probable intent” to “criminally negligent manslaughter” and “constructive manslaughter.” The defendants include managers and senior technical personnel as well as the company’s head of the board. Eight of the defendants are in pretrial detention.
The Soma mining disaster exposed Turkey’s harsh and illegal working conditions in mining and other hazardous industries. The country’s laws and regulations pertaining to mining stipulate health and safety standards and hold government ministries and state institutions responsible for regular inspection and oversight.