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351 arrested in Turkey for shoddy building construction in earthquake zone: justice minister

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Turkish courts have arrested 351 people as a result of investigations into suspects in the construction business for contributing to the catastrophic death toll in major earthquakes that struck southern Turkey in February, Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç said on Friday, the Kısa Dalga news website reported.

On Feb. 6 two powerful temblors, magnitude 7.8 and 7.5, devastated parts of Turkey and Syria, causing the death of almost 60,000 in the two countries.

According to Tunç, in investigations into 1,757 people over shoddily constructed buildings that were destroyed by the earthquakes, 351 have been arrested by a court of law, while 642 were detained but released on judicial probation.

The justice minister said investigations take time because experts need samples from buildings to help courts determine where responsibility lies.

This week a Turkish court released seven suspects who had earlier been arrested as part of an investigation into the collapse of Diyarbakır’s Galeria residential complex in the February earthquakes. The investigation, conducted by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, sought to identify any negligence related to the collapse of the buildings.

The Galeria residential complex collapse resulted in the death of 89 people and left 22 others injured. Situated in the Yenişehir district of the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, the complex consisted of a shopping mall on the first four floors and 128 residential flats on the remaining eight floors. It was built in 1999. The remaining three blocks of the complex were demolished following the earthquakes.

Turkey has erected high-rise buildings across fault lines and swaths of earthquake-prone regions that have been bracing for a major jolt for years.

The quake leveled thousands of buildings and has sparked outrage from victims and people across Turkey over the poor quality construction.

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