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Legal experts: Involuntary manslaughter charge too light for mine managers.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- Prosecutors investigating the managers of a coal mine where a catastrophic accident killed 301 workers and injured scores of others last week in western Manisa province's Soma district have accused the managers of involuntary manslaughter, but legal experts say this charge is not severe enough.

Involuntary manslaughter entails a prison sentence of two to 15 years. The charge is usually used in deadly traffic accidents.

According to legal experts, the mine managers should stand accused of murder by "conscious negligence," which entails a prison sentence of up to 22.5 years, or of premeditated murder, which entails a prison sentence of up to 28 years.

Eight suspects were arrested by a court late on Monday as part of an investigation into the disaster in the Soma mine. Ramazan Doy-ru, general manager of Soma KE[micro]mE-r yE-letmeleri (Soma Coal Mining Company), and CEO Can GE-rkan, the son of mining company owner Alp GE-rkan, were among those arrested. The arrests came after 26 people had been detained and questioned. The remaining suspects have been released but could face prosecution later.

A fire that started in the mine rapidly depleted the oxygen levels in the shaft. The cause of the fire is not yet clear.

Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy EuzgE-r Euzel, who has been following developments related to the mine disaster closely, told the media on Monday that people were expecting the mine managers to be charged with premeditated murder but the managers had instead been charged with involuntary manslaughter, which will lead to lower prison terms if they are convicted. "Involuntary manslaughter is usually used for deadly traffic accidents. Was the Soma mine disaster a traffic accident?" the deputy asked, calling on prosecutors involved in the disaster to revise the charges.

Lawyer Selcuk Kozay-acly, head of the Progressive Lawyers Association (EcHD), said the mine officials should be charged with premeditated murder. "They caused multiple deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning. This is premeditated murder. They neglected to take workplace safety measures in order to increase coal production at the mine. The increase led to hot coal. They ignored warnings about the hot coal," the lawyer stated.

Hot coal is an indication that a fire is burning in some part of the mine. According to Soma miners who escaped the disaster, a fire in the mine suddenly grew to huge proportions and produced a large quantity of carbon monoxide.

E[pounds sterling]nal DemirtaE-, a lawyer for the families of 30 miners who were killed in the Karadon mine accident in Zonguldak in 2010, has claimed that mine managers attempt to influence the experts who examine such mining areas in order to evade culpability in case of an investigation. "If they manage to influence the experts [through bribery], they escape punishment in the event of an accident at the mine. The figures responsible for many mining accidents in the past escaped punishment thanks to their influence over these experts," he stated. The lawyer also said the Soma mine disaster could have been prevented if a thorough investigation had been carried out in Karadon and the figures responsible had been punished.

According to Yylmaz Yazycyoy-lu, a professor of criminal law, the company neglected to construct emergency chambers inside the mine and forced miners to continue working underground although they knew that a fire had erupted in the mine. "In this case, the managers committed multiple murders by conscious negligence," he said, adding that the mine had allegedly been last inspected in January. "Inspectors did not take into consideration the flaws in the mine. The fact that carbon monoxide sensors were not working properly added to the huge scale of the disaster in the mine. The inspectors should also be tried for negligence," the professor added.

Nurcan EcE[micro]l, a retired judge, has stated that if the mine managers neglected to take the necessary measures to prevent accidents in the mine, they should be charged with murder by conscious negligence. "There are claims that the workers were not given proper gas masks and that there was not a refuge chamber inside the mine. If these are true, then it is a fact that the managers neglected to take the required measures. And this requires them to be charged with committing murder by conscious negligence," EcE[micro]l explained. (Cihan/Today's Zaman)


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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:May 20, 2014
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