A Turkish court on June 16 handed down jail terms to three people in the retrial of the 2014 Soma mining disaster case.
The Akhisar Heavy Penal Court sentenced Can Gürkan, the CEO of the Soma mine, to 20 years in prison, while Turkish Coal Enterprises Institution engineers Adem Ormanoğlu and Efkan Kurt received each 12.5 years in jail.
The fourth suspect in the case, Soma Holding board member Haluk Evinç, on the other was acquitted of the charges.
The Soma mining disaster occurred on May 13, 2014 when one of the mine pits was engulfed in flames and carbon monoxide gas, trapping a team of some 800 miners working inside. The deadliest tragedy in Turkish mining history led to the death of 301 miners and the injury of 160 others.
In the first trial of the case, four suspects had been found guilty of causing death by negligence.
Upon families' appeal, the Court of Cassation overturned the verdict and demanded that suspects stand trial on charges of 301 counts of first-degree murder.
However, after the appointment of new judges to the case, the top appeals reversed its own decision and ruled in January that the four suspects stand trial on charges of “killing with conscious negligence,” which meant a maximum jail term of 22 years.
According to the June 16 court ruling, Gürkan will be asked to serve only half of his jail term, i.e. 10 years, as a result of last year's amnesty law. As he is eligible for parole for a duration of three years and already served in prison for 4.5 years, he will be jailed only for another 2.5 years.
Since engineers Kurt and Ormanoğlu have never served jail time in the case, they will be imprisoned if the Court of Cassation approves of the sentences.
Families of victims reacted against the verdict, saying a few years of jail term for the three suspects does not mean that justice has been served.
“What kind of conscience is this? Whom does the justice serve? They have once again shown that there is no justice for those who are being trampled on,” said Gülten Çolak, who lost his son in the disaster.
Lawyer Berrin Demir said that in a case concerning the death of 301 miners, a mining boss should stand trial on first-degree murder, instead of "killing with conscious negligence." Demir said that families will appeal the verdict.