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Trial into Soma mining disaster begins in Turkey

The trial of 45 managers and employees facing charges for the Soma mining disaster has begun in Turkey. The tragedy claimed 301 lives, making it modern Turkey's worst industrial accident.

Some 200 parents descended upon the city of Akhisar in western Turkey on Monday, to attend the special tribunal carrying a huge banner bearing the names of all 301 coal miners who lost their lives last March.

Eight of the 45 accused, all whom were former top managers from the Soma Komur group which ran the mine, are charged with murder over the Soma coalmine disaster. If found guilty, the managers could be handed prison sentences of up to 25 years.

Trial adjourned

The trial on Monday was almost immediately adjourned until Wednesday, however, after lawyers for the victims argued that the eight facing murder charges must testify in person and not via video link.

Other company officials have been charged with homicide by conscious negligence or reckless homicide, and also face lengthy jail terms.

An underground fire on March 13 last year sent deadly carbon monoxide through the coal mine, trapping a team of some 800 miners working inside. A report after the disaster found a long list of faults at the mine, including a lack of carbon monoxide detectors, gas masks in poor condition and bad ventilation.

Public outrage

Protests followed last year's disaster, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan notoriously appeared to play down the disaster, saying that "accidents are in the nature of the business" and compared it to incidents in Industrial Revolution-era Britain.

According to the International Labor Organization, Turkey currently has the third-highest rate of workplace accidents in the world.

ksb/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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