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Turkish mine disaster: Town under uprising lockdown, dozens arrested

Published by MAC on 2014-05-20

Turkish mine disaster: Town under uprising lockdown, dozens arrested

Cecilia Jamasmie

18 May 2014

Turkish police have put the mining town of Soma on virtual lockdown since early Saturday, setting up checkpoints and detaining dozens of people to enforce a ban on protests.

The decision came as rescue efforts following the country's worst industrial disaster ended Friday, bringing the final number of deaths to 301.

Eight lawyers from the Contemporary Jurists Association, including its leader, were handcuffed and detained during the lockdown on suspicion that they had gone to Soma to take part in more protests, the Dogan news agency said.

A total of 36 people were arrested, including mining company executives and personnel, and taken to a sports centre in the town where they chanted: "The pressure cannot intimidate us", the private agency said.

The detentions were the first of an ongoing probe into last week's mine disaster at the formerly state-run mine in Soma, 480 km southwest of Istanbul, which has triggered a number of protests across the country over poor industry safety procedures.

Angry citizens allege the privatization of previously state-controlled mines has turned them over to politically connected businessmen who have skimped on safety to maximize profit.

Mine operator Soma Komur strongly denied any negligence: "We have all worked very hard. I have not seen such an incident in 20 years," its general director, Akin Celik, said in a press conference Friday.

A preliminary expert report on the incident obtained by the Milliyet newspaper pointed to several safety violations in the mine, including a shortage of carbon monoxide detectors and ceilings made of wood instead of metal.

The nation's leading party, AlJazeera reported, said the mine had been inspected 11 times over the past five years, denying any suggestion of loopholes in mining safety regulations.

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