Turkish Court gives verdict in fatal Çorlu train accident case after six years

After six years and 20 hearings, a Turkish court has delivered its verdict in the Çorlu train accident case, where 25 people lost their lives. The court sentenced four Turkish Railways managers to prison for causing death with "conscious negligence.”

Families of the victims and supporters of them march to the courthouse before the verdict.

Duvar English

The 20th and final hearing of the trial concerning the train accident that occurred in Çorlu district of Tekirdağ took place on April 25 at the 1st High Criminal Court.

On July 8, 2018, the train crash in the western province resulted in the deaths of 25 people, including seven children, and left more than 300 injured.

Before the local elections, the court postponed the final hearing of the case, which was expected to be held on Feb. 29, on the grounds that the last words of the defendants were not taken.

Nihat Aslan, the former Turkish State Railways (TCDD) First Region Director, was sentenced to 15 years, while Turgut Kurt, the former TCDD Maintenance Director, received 16 years.

Mümin Karasu, the former Maintenance Service Director, had his initial 21-year sentence reduced to 17 years due to judicial leniency. Levent Meriçli, the former Deputy Director of Maintenance Services, also received a reduced sentence, from 11 years to nine years, after a similar reduction based on his judicial record.

Nizamettin Aras, the Deputy Maintenance Director of the First Region, was sentenced to 8 years. Two engineers, Tevfik Baran Önder and Deniz Parlak, were sentenced to 10 years and 9 years, respectively, while Kubilay Başkaya received the same sentence as Parlak.

Özkan Polat, the Road Maintenance and Repair Supervisor in Çerkezköy, recived 13 years. The court also ordered the immediate arrest of Polat, Karasu, Aslan, and Kurt while acquitting Levent Kaytan, Burhan Ortancıl, Çetin Yıldırım, and Celalettin Çabuk. 

The lawyers made a statement in front of the courthouse after the hearing and said, "We have climbed the steps (that lead the investigation) to the General Directorate of TCDD. Four TCDD executives were sentenced for 'causing death with conscious negligence'."

"The judges and prosecutors who failed to carry out an effective investigation in the case have entered the dark chapter of history," the lawyers said.

The lawyers stated that they were satisfied with the verdict, yet it was not enough and added "As long as the representative of the privatization policies that brought TCDD to this state is not put on trial, the verdict will continue to be incomplete."

The families stated that they would not rest until the then general director of TCDD, İsa Apaydın, and senior bureaucrats were put on trial.

Both families and lawyers also thanked to Can Atalay, jailed (former) lawmaker and lawyer of the case.

Main opposition closely follows case

CHP chair Özel marches with the families before the verdict.

Republican People's Party (CHP) Chair Özgür Özel, Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) lawmaker Ahmet Şık, CHP’s Tekirdağ Metropolitian Municipality Mayor Candan Yüceer, Çorlu District Mayor Ahmet Sarıkurt, and representatives of other political parties also followed the trial.

CHP Chair Özgür Özel sat on the front row with the victims' families during the hearing.

Özel also had previously discussed the train crash case with newly elected Constitutional Court (AYM) President Kadir Özkaya at the April 23 Reception held at the Parliament and called on citizens to follow the court the day before the final hearing.

After the verdict, Özel pointed out that it was the first time that such high prison sentences were given to public officials in a case and added that they will continue to follow the case until politicians and senior bureaucrats responsible with the accident put on the trial.