Europe

Turkey mine disaster: Three face charges over deaths

  • 18 May 2014
  • From the section Europe
People pray in a Soma cemetery where several miners who died in the Soma mine explosion have been buried, in Soma, Turkey, 18 May 2014
The Soma mine disaster claimed 301 lives and sparked angry protests

Three people arrested in Turkey by police investigating the Soma mine disaster are facing a charge of causing multiple deaths, officials say.

They were among 25 people detained on Sunday, including several mining company officials.

The explosion and fire on Tuesday sent carbon monoxide gas into the mine's tunnels, claiming 301 lives.

It was the country's worst-ever mining disaster and sparked protests against the government and mine operators.

"The crime of which the suspects are accused is causing multiple deaths and injuries due to negligence," public prosecutor Bekir Sahiner told journalists.

Six of those arrested on Sunday have now been released, he added.

'Coal overheating'

The prosecutor did not identify the three suspects facing charges.

Turkey's Dogan news agency said mining company Soma Holding's general manager Ramazan Dogru and operations manager Akin Celik were among the 25 arrested.

It is not yet clear if either of the men faces charges. Soma Holding insists the disaster was not caused by negligence.

Muzaffer Yildirim, a miner whose brother died in Tuesday's incident, told the BBC the managers were responsible for the disaster and "should be punished".

Police officers escorted mining officials, including operations manager Akin Celik (centre-right) to a prison
The courthouse in Soma, where detained suspects had been questioned, was guarded by police
Relatives have been grieving for their loved ones, as the last two workers recovered were buried on Sunday
Protests against the disaster have taken place across Turkey, including in Istanbul, where police deployed water cannon on Saturday

Initial reports suggest that the disaster could have been caused by coal in the mine overheating.

Rescue operations ended on Saturday after the bodies of the last missing workers were recovered.

The government has faced growing anger from the public, with protests in the western city of Izmir, Istanbul and Ankara.

In Soma, local authorities have banned demonstrations. Dozens of people were detained as they attempted to travel there on Saturday to offer condolences.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been criticised for appearing insensitive in his reaction to the disaster.

Both Mr Erdogan and his aide Yusuf Yerkel have come under pressure after photos appearing to show them assaulting protesters were published in Turkish media.

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