Turkish Rail Officials Jailed for More than 108 Years for Crash That Left 25 Dead

ISTANBUL (AP) — A court in Turkey sentenced nine rail officials to more than 108 years’ imprisonment over a crash six years ago that killed 25 people, local media reported on Thursday.

A passenger train operated by Turkish State Railways derailed in July 2018 as it passed through Corlu district some 110 kilometers (68 miles) west of Istanbul.

The train was traveling from Unlukopru, near the Greek border, to Istanbul’s Halkali station, Turkey’s main rail route to Europe. Seven children were among the dead and more than 300 people were injured.

An expert report submitted to Corlu 1st High Criminal Court said a rail embankment had collapsed due to heavy rain and found the railways operator at fault for not taking precautions against severe weather conditions. The collapse of the embankment above a culvert left six carriages lying on their sides.

Photographs taken in the aftermath of the crash showed no ground support under a section of rail above the culvert.

Thirteen Turkish Railways officials stood trial for “causing death and injury by negligence.” Four were acquitted.

State-run Anadolu News Agency reported that Turkish Railways’ regional manager at the time was jailed for 17 and a half years, the heaviest sentence. The shortest sentence was eight years, four months given to a deputy rail maintenance manager.

Families of the victims have campaigned for wider accountability for the crash, demanding senior managers at rail company as well as Transport Ministry officials also face charges.

Misra Oz, whose nine-year-old son died in the crash, has been the most prominent face of the families’ grievances. Three years ago, she was fined the equivalent of $1,250 for “insulting public officials” in relation to the disaster.

Speaking to a crowd of hundreds before the hearing, Oz said that “today the people really responsible and who made the decisions that caused negligence are not here” and called for to “end this policy of impunity. “

In a statement issued after the hearing, the victims’ families said the case would “not end unless the high-ranking officials are put on trial.”

The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, Ozgur Ozel, was one of several politicians who attended the trial.

“Perhaps we are seeing that public officials are being punished for the first time, that the culture of impunity is set back for the first time,” he said after the sentencing.

In recent years Turkey has sought to modernize its rail network, building several high-speed inter-city lines, but most passengers still prefer air or road travel. In the country’s worst recent rail disaster, 41 people were killed and 80 injured in 2004 when a high-speed train derailed in the northwestern province of Sakarya.

By ANDREW WILKS Associated Press


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