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Coal mine managers on trial for deadly disaster

By Agence France-Presse in Akhisar | China Daily | Updated: 2015-04-16 07:50

Eight former managers at the mine where Turkey's worst mining disaster occurred in May appeared in court on Wednesday on murder charges, with prosecutors demanding they spend the rest of their lives in jail.

The disaster claimed the lives of 301 workers at the Soma coal mine in western Turkey, exposing shocking safety shortcomings in the country's mining industry.

Relatives of the victims wept in the courtroom.

"My daughter was just three days old when her father died!" shouted one widow. Another yelled: "May Allah burn these sinners in hell for eternity."

A total of 45 suspects are on trial for the tragedy, but eight former managers from the Soma Komur group that ran the mine have been accused of "killing with probable criminal intent" and face life sentences.

The eight, including former chief executive Can Gurkan and general manager Ramazan Dogru, were not brought to court on Monday, the first day of the trial, for security reasons, infuriating the victims' relatives. The judge quickly adjourned the proceedings, ruling the eight should appear on Wednesday.

The eight arrived in court in the early morning, entering by a back door and protected by 250 police officers.

In his initial testimony read by a clerk, Gurkan said he could not be held responsible for the safety problems at the mine: "I am not an engineer, a technician or a workplace safety expert. I am just an executive, and as I have no technical expertise I cannot be held responsible for the accident."

Prosecutors say the miners were killed after inhaling gas and toxic smoke from the fire, which was caused when an abandoned pile of coal left next to an electrical transformer caught fire.

Prosecutors in their indictment asked for 25 year sentences for each of the eight, multiplied 301 times for every victim.

This would result in a total sentence for each of 7,525 years in prison. They also face three-year sentences for each of the more than 160 wounded. The terms of the indictment were confirmed at Wednesday's hearing.

The other 37 suspects also face hefty sentences after being charged with negligent homicide.

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