GSM companies deemed 'not guilty' for failure in quake zone
In a controversial decision, a Hatay prosecutor's office has deemed three telecommunication companies "not guilty" in the investigation into the communication failure just after the Feb. 6 earthquakes.
Following the devastating earthquakes in the southern part of the country that claimed the lives of more than 50,000 people, one of the most significant challenges was the inability of GSM companies to provide service, hindering communication with a large number of victims still trapped under the wreckage.
Due to the disruption in the services of the mobile operators in the 11 quake-hit provinces, the communication opportunity could not be used sufficiently in the first critical days of the earthquakes. Three operators, Turkcell, Türk Telekom and Vodafone had more than 11 million subscribers in the region.
The Hatay Bar Association on March 16 filed a criminal complaint with the İskenderun Public Prosecutor's Office against three major GSM companies and Information Technologies and Communications Authority (BTK).
According to the petition presented to the prosecutor by lawyers Murat Cengiz Güzeltepe and Hamdi Evren on behalf of the bar, "GSM operators, by placing base stations on the roofs of buildings in earthquake-stricken areas, caused an irreparable mistake leading to the collapse of communication."
The petition highlighted the provision in the Electronic Communications Law that mandates "taking necessary measures for uninterrupted communication during disaster situations," asserting the clear responsibility of the operators.
However, the companies claimed that "the incident occurred due to a natural disaster and the technical impossibility of reinstating base stations at the time of earthquakes."