Families of victims vow to continue fight after court convicts 9 over Çorlu train disaster

A Turkish court on Wednesday sentenced nine railroad officials to varying prison terms in connection with a 2018 train derailment that killed 25 people and injured 328 in the Çorlu district of Turkey’s northwestern Tekirdağ province, ending a yearslong fight for accountability that families say is far from over.

According to Turkish Minute, the Çorlu 1st High Criminal Court handed down a sentence of 17-and-a-half years to Mümin Karasu, the former regional maintenance manager of Turkish State Railways (TCDD), finding him guilty of “involuntary manslaughter.”

The court convicted eight others on the same charge, but with differing sentences.

Turgut Kurt, another railroad maintenance manager, received a sentence of 16 years, three months. Nihat Aslan, the regional director at the time of the crash, was sentenced to 15 years, while the head of the athletics department, Özkan Polat, received 13 years, nine months.

Other officials were given lesser sentences, including 10 years for engineer Tevfik Baran Önder, nine years, two months each for Levent Meriçli, Deniz Parlak and Kubilay Başkaya, and Nizamettin Aras, another manager responsible for maintenance received eight years, four months.

The court acquitted four other defendants.

Outside the courtroom, the relatives of the deceased and injured had mixed feelings. Mısra Öz, who lost her son and husband in the crash, spoke to reporters and emphasized the beginning of a new struggle. “We will not rest until all those responsible, including the former transportation minister İsa Apaydın, are brought to justice,” Öz said.

The derailment in July 2018 near the village of Sarılar in Tekirdağ province occurred when heavy rains shifted the tracks, indicating significant maintenance deficiencies. Despite the convictions, the families and their lawyers argue that high-ranking officials who oversaw the railroad system have evaded accountability.

The court’s decision follows persistent activism by the families affected by the tragedy, who have repeatedly accused the government of shielding senior bureaucrats and former ministers from prosecution. They promise to take further legal action and maintain public pressure.

Deniz Özen, one of the lawyers for the victims and their families, described the verdict as “a significant decision in Turkish history, possibly the first time public officials have been punished in this way, and a tear in the curtain of systematic impunity in Turkey,” adding, “We are satisfied with the decision, but it is not enough!”

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