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Turkish justice minister visits graves of Cypriot children killed in earthquake

Turkish Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc
Turkish Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc (right)

Turkish Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc visited the graves of the Turkish Cypriot children who were killed in February’s earthquakes on Friday.

The visit to the graves was his first port of call on a day-long visit to the island.

At the site of the graves, Tunc expressed his condolences to each of the children’s families one by one, before addressing those in attendance.

He told them, “While the pain is still in our hearts, we are continuing to work to ensure there are no deficiencies or disruptions in the trial process” of those held responsible.

“Your sensitivity is our sensitivity. We will follow this until the end,” he said.

He added, “hundreds of buildings collapsed, and more than 50,000 lives were lost in the earthquakes. Among these 50,000 lives, the loss of our champion angels from the TRNC also hurt us very deeply.”

“The deaths of these children, who were staying at the Isias hotel in Adiyaman and were visiting our country for a competition … really shook us deeply. We still deeply feel this sadness,” he said.

Regarding the trials of those responsible for the collapse of the Isias hotel, he said judicial processes regarding collapsed buildings in 11 provinces across the southeast of Turkey are beginning.

He said the Turkish justice ministry has transferred more than 1,000 judges and prosecutors to the region, as well as sending over 100 experts on various related fields to gather evidence.

On the case of the Isias hotel itself, he said “we are particularly sensitive about justice being served and the judicial process continuing impartially and independently. Hopefully, our judiciary will reveal who is at fault there, who is guilty in the construction of that building. We trust our judiciary.”

Circling back to the children’s loss of life, he said “of course, it is not possible to bring back these children of ours, but their death has a culprit.”

“Yes, the earthquake was a natural disaster, but whoever did not take precautions against this disaster will be revealed by the judiciary. These children are our children, too. We are one nation, a singular nation … The loss of this team of children’s lives shook us very deeply. The pain is still in our hearts,” he said.

He expressed his condolences, as well as the condolences of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish nation to the Turkish Cypriot people.

On the matter of the trial itself, the families of the children who were killed asked that a large courtroom be used in Adiyaman, so that it be possible for them to attend proceedings.

Tunc said he would evaluate the matter and meet with Adiyaman’s Chief public prosecutor about the matter.

The trial is scheduled to begin on January 3.

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