25 detained as part of probe into Soma mine accident
Twenty-five people were detained May 18 as part of the investigation into the Soma coal mine accident, Doğan News Agency reported, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.
Prosecutors have sent five of the suspects to court, demanding their arrest. "Three suspects are arrested, while two are released," Chief Prosecutor Bekir Şahiner told journalists. Arrest warrants for six more suspects are pending in the court, Şahiner said.
High-ranking officials of the company operating the Soma mine, including Soma Holding chairman Can Gürkan and chief engineer Akın Çelik who participated to the company's press statement on May 16, are among the detained officials.
"Suspects charged with causing multiples cases of death by negligence," Şahiner added.
However, Can Gürkan's father and the company's owner, Alp Gürkan, as well as the company's operating manager, Ramazan Doğru, are not included in the list of the suspects, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a deputy from main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), has said.
Özgür Özel, another CHP deputy, criticized the type of the prosecution's charge. "This is a charge for a traffic crime. Suspects should have been charged with reckless homicide instead, which would allow the judge to jail them for up to 25 years," Özel said.
Earlier, the governor of Manisa released a statement saying that 19 suspects were detained.
The entrance of the mine has been closed with a brick wall, after the authorities called for an end to rescue works.
All mining activities have also been halted, upon a decision by the Turkish Labor Inspection Board. Only inspectors and prosecutors investigating the accident are now allowed to enter the vicinity of the mine.
Company head to be tried for fraud
Meanwhile, a lawsuit against Alp Gürkan, the head of Soma Coal Mine Company, has been opened on fraud charges, daily Hürriyet reported. Prosecutors are demanding a prison term from six to 18 years in the case, which is separate from the probe into the mine disaster.
The indictment prepared by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor's Office demands to try Gürkan on charges of being a member of a criminal organization founded by businessman Korkmaz Yiğit, and being involved in a fraudulent bankruptcy.
Some 17 suspects, including Gürkan, reportedly bought property in the Avcılar, Ispartakule, Tahtakale neighborhoods of Istanbul on behalf of Korkmaz Yiğit. All suspects, including Gürkan, are expected to stand trial next month at the Istanbul 12th High Criminal Court.