The miners were killed in 2014 by a fire that raged inside the coal mine in Soma, western Turkey. The tragedy exposed poor safety standards and superficial government inspections in Turkey's mines. More than 160 other people came out of the mine with injuries.
The court in the nearby city of Manisa found the CEO, technical director, operations manager and supervisor of Soma Komur Isletmeleri A.S. guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced them to between 18 and 22 years each, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. The company's owner, Can Gurkan, was given 15 years.
Nine other employees were sentenced to between six and 10 years in prison while 37 defendants were acquitted. As the verdicts were being read, families of the victims protested the sentences they deemed to be too lenient, even hurling a plastic water bottle toward the panel of judges, Anadolu reported. Their protest continued outside the courthouse.
Inspection reports had indicated that the coal had been smoldering for days before the disaster, releasing toxic gases. At the time of the tragedy, survivors complained of poor working and safety conditions inside the mine, including a lack of gas masks.