Turkey mining disaster: Prosecutors seek life terms for eight company executives

Trial is expected to begin in coming weeks

ISTANBUL - Prosecutors have demanded life imprisonment for eight executives of a coal mine company in Turkey operating a facility where 301 workers were killed in May in the country's worst mining accident, media reported on Wednesday.
Prosecutors in the western city of Manisa are seeking life terms on a record 301 counts of manslaughter against the suspects, who were arrested and placed in pre-trial detention in May.
Twenty-nine other employees of the Soma Mining company have also been charged with involuntary manslaughter and face between two to 15 years in prison if found guilty, news agency Dogan reported.
A trial is expected to begin in the coming weeks. Those facing life imprisonment include the chief executive of Soma Mining, Can Gurkan, who is also the son of the company's owner.
An explosion followed by the collapse of a mine at Soma in the west of the country killed the 301 miners in Turkey's worst-ever industrial accident. Most were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Expert reports pointed to several safety violations at the mine, including a shortage of carbon monoxide detectors, ceilings made of wood instead of metal, and a lack of high-quality gas masks.
Soma Mining has denied any responsibility.
The disaster sparked a wave of fury against then prime minister -- now President -- Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was accused of indifference to the plight of the victims.
It also reignited concerns over lax safety in a country with the highest rate of workplace fatalities in Europe, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Following the disaster, the government introduced a new action plan to improve safety in the country's mines.
But in the latest accident to hit the country's disaster-prone mining industry, a flood at a mine in the southern Karaman region left 18 miners trapped last week.
The government has yet to confirm their deaths, but hopes are next to zero of finding anyone alive with the miners remaining under tonnes of water.