World Bulletin/News Desk
A Turkish court ordered five suspects to be kept in custody on Sunday on a provisional charge of "causing multiple deaths" in last week's mine disaster, as the last of the 301 victims were buried.
Of the remaining 22 people detained earlier, 15 suspects have been released but could face prosecution later. Questioning of the other 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 accident.
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.
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.
Rescue teams have left the Soma coal mine as operations ended late Saturday after the last workers trapped underground were recovered in Turkey’s biggest-ever mining disaster.
Only labor inspectors, police and mine workers remain at the site, according to a statement from Soma Holding, the company which owns the mine in the western district of Soma where 301 workers died in Tuesday’s blast.
Inspectors have ordered that all activity underground be terminated after examining the mine.
The cause of the blast is yet unknown. Government officials have promised a thorough investigation.
Dozens of prosecutors were assigned on Friday to oversee post-mortem examinations.
Public resentment boiled over Friday into protests in Soma and major cities.
Over 480 workers survived the disaster, the government’s emergency agency has announced.
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, finished reciting 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."
An investigation into the cause of the incident will include technical and administrative inquiries, Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said as he dismissed the “humiliating” allegations that Syrians were working in the mine.
Previously Yildiz stated that any negligence on the part of officials or the company managing the mine will be punished.
Touching on speculation about mines in Turkey operating contrary to regulations, the minister said, 114 mines had been shut down over the last three years for not adhering to legal regulations.
Pointing to a new legal regulation in mining sector, Yildiz also stated a research motion had been submitted to parliament and the council of ministers would hold a meeting on this issue on Tuesday.
Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci has said that the government will do its best to improve the plight of the miners who have survived this tragedy and the relatives of those killed.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signed a notice to launch an aid campaign for the relatives of the victims of the mining disaster.
Separately, Turkey’s Labor and Social Security Minister Faruk Celik announced that an official investigation into the reasons of the disaster was underway, adding that the mine in Soma had undergone 16 different inspections in the last two years.
Following the disaster many world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, passed on their condolences and offered assistance.
Tuesday’s mine accident in Soma is the deadliest in Turkey’s history surpassing a firedamp explosion that killed 263 miners in Zonguldak in 1992.
Last Mod: 19 Mayıs 2014, 11:02