Turkish court sentences executives to prison over Soma mine disaster

301 miners died in coal mine explosion at Soma in Manisa on May 13, 2014.

A Turkish court sentenced mining company executives to up to 22 years in prison on Wednesday over their role in a coal mine disaster in Turkey four years ago, Reuters reported.

In 2014, 301 miners were killed in a fire inside a coal mine in Soma, western Turkey — the nation’s worst mining disaster.

The mining company’s general manager and technical manager were both sentenced to 22 years in jail. Two other company officials were sentenced to nearly 19 years, and the chairman received 15 years, the ruling seen by Reuters said.

According to the report, the court acquitted more than 30 from among 51 defendants who had been put on trial over the 301 deaths on charges ranging from “killing with probable intent” to “criminally negligent manslaughter.”

The family members of the miners who were killed screamed angry protests and booed the judges outside the courtroom, footage on social media showed.

The verdicts given by the Akhisar court were far lighter than sought by prosecutors when the trial started in April 2015. Prosecutors had then requested that the top managers be sentenced to 25 years in prison for every single one of the 301 victims.

An explosion at a coal mine in Soma in western Manisa province on May 13, 2014 caused a fire that burned for two days and trapped nearly 600 workers underground. It was claimed that an explosion started a fire about two kilometers below the entrance of the mine, causing it to fill with toxic gas.

The defendants faced charges of manslaughter and negligence of safety measures, according to the final plea by the prosecutor. Throughout the hearings this week in a Manisa courthouse, they maintained their innocence, claiming it was not clear what caused the fire, while some defendants denied responsibility for work safety.

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