The court is expected to issue a verdict today or next week in the trial of eight defendants over Turkey's deadliest mining disaster. In 2014, in the western town of Soma, 301 coal miners were killed after a fire broke out inside a mine shaft and they were trapped with no chance of escaping.Police arrested the mine's executives, including Can Gürkan, the CEO of the mining company. Five people including Gürkan were jailed without bail, while several others being held responsible for the incident were released pending trial. Can Gürkan's father Alp Gürkan, who owns the corporation where the mining company is a subsidiary, is among the defendants who were released on bail.
The defendants face charges of manslaughter and negligence of safety measures, according to the final plea by the prosecutor. Lawyers for the victims' families are calling for them to be convicted of deliberate manslaughter. Throughout the hearings this week in a courthouse in Manisa province where the mine was located, they maintained their innocence, claiming it was not clear what caused the fire, while some defendants denied responsibility for work safety.
On May 13, 2014, an explosion started a fire about 2,000 meters from the entrance. The fire caused the mine to fill with toxic gas. Following the disaster, the government took a series of measures to ensure better work safety and tighter inspections in privately run mines that critics say often ignore costly safety measures to keep profits high.Turkey paid more than TL 24 million ($8.1 million) to the surviving workers and families of victims, as well as salary support for six months, along with monthly payments designated for those workers who die in occupational accidents. The government also offered public sector jobs for the relatives of victims, as part of efforts to help families where deceased workers were often the sole breadwinners for their households.
For the broader mining sector, new regulations have eased working conditions for miners and improved work safety. The retirement age for miners was dropped to 50 from 55. Weekly working hours were dropped to 37.5 hours, and two-day weekends are now available for miners. Overtime for miners was also limited, and payments for overtime were increased. Overall salaries for workers were doubled under the new regulations.
Mining companies are mandated to install oxygen mask stations, tracking systems for miners, emergency rooms and other safety measures, while companies that neglect work safety now face harsher fines and bans from public tenders.
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