An engineer sentenced to eight years in prison for his role in the 2014 Soma mining disaster that killed 301 people has been appointed as an expert witness in a trial regarding a separate deadly mining incident, according to a report in the daily Cumhuriyet on May 13.
A landslide in a mine in the Aegean province of Muğla in February 2019 resulted in the death of three miners, including Şükrü Otlak, the family of whom is suing the company.
Last week, the family filed a petition to the court after learning that one of the expert witnesses assigned to the trial, Fuat Ünal Aydın, had been convicted for his role in the circumstances that led to the 2014 Soma disaster.
As of May 13, it has been exactly six years since an explosion killed 301 miners in the Soma mine in the western Anatolian province of Manisa, in what was the deadliest job site disaster in the history of the Turkish republic.
Turkey’s mining sector is among the country’s most perilous, where miners work in grueling conditions for low pay, and where deadly accidents are frequent in mines throughout the country.
In the petition, the Otlak family also objected to the other expert witnesses that were assigned, one of whom includes those among the inspection crew of a mine where a landslide resulted in three deaths on April 10. According to the Otlak family’s petition, the expert witnesses are unacceptable candidates as they all work in the mining sector and none of them hold any academic titles.
The petition also requested a criminal complaint against the rector of Istanbul Technical University, as the university waited seven months to respond to a request from the court to provide an expert witness for the case, and ultimately responded by saying the university lacked an expert witness.
According to the petition, based on the fact that the school is one of the most prominent technical universities in the country, the fact that they could not find a scholar in the university’s mining department who could serve as an expert witness is highly unlikely. The petition accuses the university of evading its public duty.