Contractor of collapsed building demands release from prison to ‘complete’ TOKİ projects

The contractor of a building that collapsed and killed 51 of its residents during the Feb. 6 earthquakes has demanded his release from prison in the second hearing of the case, saying he had projects to complete for the state-run Turkish Housing Authority (TOKİ).

Duvar English

Mehmet Özkan, the detained contractor of the Cemil Çapar Apartment in Hatay, on June 27 requested his release in the first hearing of the case.  

The apartment had collapsed in the Feb. 6 earthquakes, killing 51 residents with some individuals still unrecovered some 16 months after the disaster.

Özkan cited his obligations to deliver state contract projects and a Turkish Housing Authority (TOKİ) project.

The second hearing of the case regarding the apartment was held at Hatay Third High Criminal Court, according to reporting by the ANKA News Agency.

The detained defendants, contractor Özkan and the site manager, along with the families who lost their loved ones in the earthquake and their lawyers, were present at the hearing. 

Speaking from prison via the video-conferencing system SEGBİS, Özkan requested his release, stating, "I have state contract projects and a TOKİ project that I need to deliver."

The court decided to continue the detention of Özkan and the site manager and postponed the hearing to September 13, 2024.

Commenting on the hearing, lawyer Seher Eriş said, "Survivors of the apartment reported that the building collapsed in eight seconds, a fire broke out afterward, and the fire could not be extinguished for days, making it impossible to find many bodies. According to the expert report, the contractor was found to be primarily at fault due to the inadequate quality of materials and insufficient detailing during construction."

Eriş criticized the awarding of construction contracts to Özkan, saying, "In light of all this destruction and death, who is being entrusted with the TOKİ projects that house millions of people in Turkey?"

The Justice-Seeking Families Platform issued a statement saying, "This incident once again underscores the need for stricter supervision and quality control mechanisms in the selection of firms for TOKİ projects and similar large construction projects.” 

The statement continued, “The massive destruction and loss of life highlight the importance of safety and quality standards in the construction sector. It is of utmost importance that the legal process is meticulously conducted to ensure justice is served.”

Hatay was the most affected province by the 7.7 and 7.6-magnitude earthquakes that struck southeastern Turkey on Feb. 6, 2023.

At least 23,000 people died, thousands of buildings were destroyed and hundreds of thousands were left homeless in the province.