Lawyers from the Contemporary Lawyers Association (ÇHD) have filed a criminal complaint against 11 people, including two members of the Turkish cabinet, accusing them of responsibility for a mine disaster in northwestern Turkey last Friday that claimed the lives of 41 miners, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Monday.
A methane blast that ripped through the mine near the small coal town of Amasra on Turkey’s Black Sea coast killed 41 miners and injured 28, five of them seriously. The mine was operated by the state-owned Turkish Hard Coal Enterprises (TTK).
According to DW, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Fatih Dönmez and Labor and Social Security Minister Vedat Bilgin were among 11 people named in a complaint filed by the ÇHD lawyers on allegations of negligent homicide and causing aggravated injury.
In the complaint they filed with the Bartın Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the lawyers demanded that an investigation be launched into those people whom they accused of responsibility for the mine blast. They also demanded that the suspects in the investigation be arrested since they are public figures who could use administrative powers to tamper with evidence.
The lawyers added that the coal mine in Amasra was a “crime scene” as of Oct. 14 at 6:15 p.m. local time and that therefore people suspected of responsibility for the explosion should be prevented from entering the premises.
They also cited the 2019 and 2020 reports released by the Turkish Court of Accounts that found that there was an insufficient number of miners in Amasra and that it reduced production, labor productivity and occupational safety. The court had also warned the TTK on the issue, DW said.
Meanwhile, according to a report by the ANKA news agency on Monday, police intervened in a protest in Ankara and detained nearly 20 people gathered to make a statement on the mining tragedy.
Among the protesters were members from the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) and the Turkish Medical Association (TTB).
Emin Koramaz, who leads the TMMOB, criticized the Ankara police for not even allowing people to mourn the miners who died in the blast.
“Forty-one of our friends lost their lives [working] under inhumane conditions in Bartın. The sensitive people of Turkey are trying to take action so that such murders do not happen again [and] so that those responsible are held accountable. [But] we are being prevented [from staging a protest] here. … Let them know that we will continue to fight all over Turkey until those responsible are held accountable,” Koramaz added.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party came under fire following the mining disaster due to its failure to prioritize the safety of workers and for portraying a preventable accident as “fate.”
Work accidents are common in Turkey, where economic development can ride roughshod over safety concerns, particularly in the construction and mining industries. The country has recorded 1,898 mining fatalities since the AKP came to power in November 2002, according to data from the Health and Safety Labor Watch (İSİG).
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) spokesperson Faik Öztrak said in a tweet over the weekend, citing data from the International Labor Organization (ILO), that 189 miners died from work-related accidents in Turkey between 2019 and 2021, the highest number of mining fatalities in the world in the 2019-2021 period.
Turkey suffered its deadliest coal mining disaster in 2014 when 301 workers died in a blast and ensuing fire that brought down a mining shaft in the western town of Soma. Five mine managers were found guilty of negligence and sentenced to up to 22 years in prison.