ISTANBUL - Daily News with Radikal
A case examining whether there was a construction failure in Bingöl’s Çeltiksuyu boarding primary school, which collapsed after a 2003 earthquake and caused the deaths of 65 people, has finished after seven years. Under a recent decision of the Supreme Court of Appeals, the contractor has been sentenced to 18 months in prison and the engineer has been sentenced to a year while the other six suspects have been dropped
The file photo shows a man looking at a book amid wreckage from a school in the eastern province of Bingöl after a deadly earthquake in 2003. Hürriyet photo
When a 2003 earthquake struck Turkey, it left a death toll of 170 in its wake. The worst-hit building was a primary boarding school in the Çeltiksuyu district of the eastern province of Bingöl, where 64 students and one teacher died. The earthquake was alleged to have caused more damage and deaths than would normally be expected for a quake of its magnitude due to the poor quality of the materials used in the school’s construction.
Following the allegations a public investigation was opened by the Bingöl High Criminal Court. Contractor Şeref Bozkuş, who built the school, and engineer İsmet Elhakan were found guilty of manslaughter by negligence and imprisoned. The other suspects’ cases were dropped due to the statute of limitations, reported daily Radikal
After the pair’s lawyers appealed the decision, the file was moved to the 9th Department of the Supreme Court of Appeals. The court considered the decision under the old version of the Turkish Criminal Code.
The Supreme Court of Appeals approved the local court’s decision to sentence Bozkuş and Elhakan and require compensation of 343 Turkish Liras.
According to Radikal’s report, Bingöl Bar Association head Erdal Aydemir said the trial process took too long. “The court wasted a lot of time during the investigation with experts in the local court. The file on the degree of the failure and the building project was sent to Istanbul Technical University, Middle East Technical University and Ege University, and [the investigation] took two years,” said Aydemir, adding the most important thing is criminal law. According to Aydemir, the court decision was fair because it should be considered under the old Turkish Criminal Code, which was in place when the crime occurred.
Professor Ahmet Gökçen from Marmara University’s Law Faculty said that under the new version of the Turkish Criminal Code, in a situation of an amenability negligence which causes a death a person could be sentenced to between 10 and 25 years in prison.
“There is a technical method to construct buildings. Both the contractor and the people who approve the building’s construction should have predicted the building would collapse,” he said.
Following the 1999 Marmara earthquake, many people were accused of negligence. However there are numerous problems even in the investigation process, Radikal’s report says.