Soma mourner kicked by Erdogan’s aide fined for damage to official car

A miner who was kicked by then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s aide Yusuf Yerkel in Manisa’s Soma district following the country’s biggest ever mine disaster has been fined TL 548 for kicking one of Erdogan’s official cars causing material damage.

Yerkel kicked protester Erdal Kocabiyik, who had lost his cousin in the accident that claimed the lives of 301 miners, during Erdogan’s visit to Soma last year. According to witness accounts, body guards had been interrogating the protester after he allegedly kicked the official car. Yerkel, who saw the scene while preparing to take a seat in the car, rushed at Kocabiyik and kicked him three or four times.

Kocabiyik has never filed a criminal complaint against Yerkel. Speaking to Today’s Zaman, Derya Kocabiyik, the miner’s wife, said they received a court summons saying material damage had been done to the car and that her husband has been fined for TL 548 for the damage. She also stated that her husband is unable to find work at any mining company in the region due to the incident. “They will not employ my husband at any mine. All of the companies have closed their doors to my husband. He is now working as a porter,” Kocabiyik said.

Derya Kocabiyik also said her little girl has been negatively affected by the incident. Saying that her daughter saw the moment Yerkel delivered the kicks to her father on TV, Kocabiyik said she cannot answer her daughter when she asks why the man was kicking her father. On the same day that Erdal Kocabiyik was attacked by Erdogan’s aide, then-Prime Minister Erdogan himself punched a young man several times in Soma, after a large crowd angrily protested the mining disaster.

Many people in the crowd protested Erdogan’s presence, shouting “murderer” and “thief,” reportedly forcing the prime minister to take shelter in a grocery store. However, some reports claim that Erdogan entered the store not to avoid the protests but rather to follow — and subsequently punch — a young man who had shouted at him outside the store.

Both Yerkel’s forceful kick and Erdogan’s punch caused public outrage and fueled anti-government protests across the country. However Yerkel, who stayed out of the public eye for a while, was not expelled from his post. After the incident, Yerkel received a medical report showing that his right leg, which he had used to kick the protester, had been injured in the incident and the report excused Yerkel from work for seven days.

8 imams reassigned after rejecting sermon that purifies Erdogan

A total of eight imams have been reassigned and four others dismissed after they refused to read a sermon during Friday prayer that declared that dying in a mine is natural for a mine worker, in an attempt to reinforce earlier remarks by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s after the country’s biggest ever mine disaster last year. Following the tragedy in Soma, Erdogan said during a press conference, as if to lessen the tragic incident: “This is something ordinary. This is a work accident.” Erdogan also said that deaths in mines should be seen as fate.

After his remarks, opposition leaders harshly criticized Erdogan, describing him as a heartless person with no mercy. “[Then-] Prime Minister Erdogan no longer feels any compassion, understanding [or] tolerance. He is spiritually and mentally bereft [and] totally lacks any conscience,” said the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahceli.

Despite the strong reactions, the Religious Affairs Directorate prepared a sermon for all imams across Turkey to read during the Friday prayer to justify Erdogan’s remarks. According to the sermon, “The death of miners working in mines is to be seen as fate.” Some of the other sermons prepared by the Directorate also included statements such as, “Preventive measures to minimize injuries in work-related accidents should be held at a restrained level as not to shake the trust of the people in Allah.”

The Bugun daily also reported that the imams were accused of having links to the so-called “parallel structure.” The term was invented by Erdogan to refer to followers of the Hizmet movement — inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen — particularly followers within the state bureaucracy. He made the elimination of the “parallel structure” a priority after a major corruption scandal involving people in his inner circle erupted with a wave of detentions on Dec. 17, 2013. The president, who was then prime minister, called the corruption investigation a “plot against his government” by the Hizmet movement and foreign collaborators.