Istanbul, June 3 () - Nine miners who survived the 2014 Soma mining disaster face six years in prison for breaching the law on demonstrations and willfully harming property during a protest to demand that the bodies of co-workers be extracted from the mine.
A lawsuit was opened at the Soma 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance against the nine for staging a protest to demand the bodies of their colleagues which were reportedly still inside the mine, where 301 miners died in a fire on May 13, 2014.
The protestors are alleged to have blocked a road in Soma, staged a protest, damaged a passing panel van belonging to a private milk company and also pounded the van’s driver, Cihan Ölmez, according to the indictment.
While the miners protested for their colleagues four days after the accident, the indictment charges the nine miners for protests on May 17, 2014.
Özgür Özel, a main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy from Manisa who is also running for the parliament on a CHP ticket again, said his party would stand with the nine, just as it did after the Soma disaster.
“We will also follow this case. No one should try to smash the miners like an ant … They will not achieve a conclusion. There is an attempt to assimilate the miners; it’s designed to reach a psychological conclusion before the elections” Özel said.
The trial into the Soma accident started on April 13, during which the 45 suspects, including the eight former managers from the Soma Coal Mine Company that ran the mine, denied charges of “killing with probable criminal intent,” precipitating anger among the families of the 301 victims.
Lawsuits against Soma miners are not new. One miner, Erdal Kocabıyık, who was photographed being kicked by then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s adviser, Yusuf Yerkel, during a demonstration in Soma last year, was fined 548 Turkish Liras in mid-May for kicking a car in Erdoğan’s convoy.