A woman mourns at graves for men killed in the mine
disaster, at a cemetery in Soma, a district in Turkey's
western province of Manisa. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
A Turkish court has ordered three suspects to be kept in
custody on a provisional charge of "causing multiple deaths" in
last week's mine disaster, as the last of the 301 victims were
Of the remaining 22 people detained earlier, six suspects
have been released but could face prosecution later.
Questioning of the other 16 people was continuing.
The detentions came five days after a fire sent deadly carbon
monoxide coursing through the mine in the western Turkish
town of Soma, causing the county's worst ever industrial
The disaster has sparked protests across Turkey, directed at
mine owners accused of ignoring safety for profit, and at
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government, seen as too close
to industry bosses and insensitive in its response.
An initial report on the possible causes of the accident
indicated the fire may have been triggered by coal heating up
after it came into contact with the air, Prosecutor Bekir
Sahiner told reporters outside the Soma courthouse, rejecting
initial reports that a transformer explosion was responsible.
"The crime of which the suspects are accused is causing
multiple deaths and injuries due to negligence," he said.
The prosecutor did not identify the three suspects kept in
custody but media reports said they were the plant manager
and two mine engineers.
Earlier, relatives of those detained joined the crowd of
reporters and bystanders outside the courthouse in Soma.
"We know that we have lost 301 loved ones, but we have loved
ones inside as well," said the brother of one of the detained
engineers. He declined to give his name.
Among those detained was the general manager of the mining
company, Soma Madencilik, and the son of the company's owner.
Erdogan has presided over a decade of rapid economic growth
but workplace safety standards have failed to keep pace,
leaving Turkey with one of the world's worst industrial
The plant manager has denied negligence at the mine, which
was inspected by state officials every six months.
The rescue operation at the coal mine ended on Saturday after
the bodies of the last two workers were carried out. They
were buried on Sunday.
Mourners cried and prayed beside a line of recently filled
graves as one of them was buried in Soma.
Holding their palms open to the sky, around a thousand people
said "amen" in unison as a white-bearded imam, or Muslim
prayer leader, recited verses.
"My only wish and battle will be to make sure Soma is not
forgotten," said a written note, signed "your brother", which
was left on one grave along with some flowers.
Ramazan, a worker from a mine near the one where the accident
occurred, was among those paying his respects.
"My friend lost half of his family. And for what? To make a
living," he said. "Accidents can happen of course, but it's
an accident when one person, two people die. When 300 people
die, its not an accident anymore."
As the rescue operation wound up, police put Soma on virtual
lockdown, setting up checkpoints and detaining dozens of
people to enforce a ban on protests in response to clashes on
Friday between police and several thousand demonstrators.
Dozens of people were detained on Saturday as hundreds of
riot police patrolled the streets while others checked
identity cards at three checkpoints on the approach road to
The checkpoints remained in place on Sunday but those
detained, including eight lawyers from the Contemporary
Jurists Association, were released by Saturday evening, media
There were fresh clashes between police and demonstrators in
Istanbul and Ankara on Saturday night in protest at the
government's handling of the disaster. Protesters again
gathered in both cities on Sunday night to voice their anger.
Erdogan's opponents blame the government for privatising
leases at previously state-controlled mines, turning them
over to politically connected businessmen who they say may
have skimped on safety to maximise profit.
His ruling AK Party said the formerly state-run mine at Soma,
480 km (300 miles) southwest of Istanbul, had been inspected
11 times over the past five years. It denied any suggestion
of loopholes in mining safety regulations.