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Dozens of lawyers file complaints against Erdoğan, ministers due to role in earthquake devastation

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Sixty-one lawyers across Turkey have filed criminal complaints against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ministers in his Cabinet as well as governors, mayors and contractors in the country’s south, which was devastated by several powerful earthquakes this month, BBC Turkish service reported.

Eleven provinces in the country’s south and southeast were hit by two powerful earthquakes, a magnitude 7.8 and 7.5, on Feb. 6, which were followed by numerous aftershocks, leading to the death of more than 41, 000 people in Turkey and wreaking devastation in the region as well as in northwest Syria.

Hatay, which is among the 11 provinces hit hardest by the Feb. 6 earthquakes, was also struck by a magnitude 6.4 earthquake on Monday that was followed by aftershocks including one measuring 5.8, which led to further destruction in the province and claimed six more lives.

Following a call from a lawyers group known as Halkçı Hukukçular (The People’s Jurists), the lawyers filed the complaints at the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday.

Others facing complaints are Fahrettin Altun, Erdoğan’s communications director, as well as some GSM operators that stopped functioning in the aftermath of the earthquakes, depriving people who were trapped under the rubble of the chance to ask for help.

The subjects of the complaints are accused of murder, causing the death or injury of more than one person due to negligence, misconduct in office, blocking of communications, fraud in public tenders and obstruction of evidence, among other charges.

Erdoğan is criticized in the petition for failing to fulfill his responsibilities as president to ensure that the country was prepared for earthquakes and that buildings were earthquake resistant.

The president, who on Feb. 8 visited Kahramanmaraş, the epicenter of the Feb. 6 earthquakes, linked the deaths caused by the disaster to “destiny’s plan,” a phrase often used by him in the wake of disasters that his government is accused of failing to take precautions for in advance.

Erdoğan and his government have come under fire due to the late response to the powerful quakes and the lack of coordination in search and rescue efforts, which led to a surge in the death toll.

They were also criticized for blocking access to Twitter for at least 12 hours in the aftermath of the Feb. 6 earthquakes, which came as a blow to search and rescue efforts as people under the rubble were begging on Twitter to be rescued, or their relatives were asking for help on the social media platform by sharing their locations.

Turkey is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.

The country’s last 7.8-magnitude temblor was in 1939, when 33,000 died in eastern Erzincan province.

Turkey’s Marmara region suffered a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999, leading to the death of more than 17,000 people.

Experts have long warned a large earthquake could devastate İstanbul, a megalopolis of 16 million people filled with rickety homes.

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