Turkish gas official resigns after his gaffes over students' deaths

Turkish gas official resigns after his gaffes over students deaths

The director-general of the gas distribution company in the Turkish capital Ankara resigned after he came under fire over his remarks at Friday's press conference on the deaths of seven university students from gas leak. (UPDATED)

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Seven university students celebrating New Year’s Eve at home were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in Ankara. The tragedy was revealed when the students did not respond to phone calls from their relatives.


Veysel Karani Demir, the director-general of the Ankara Natural Gas Inc, held a press conference regarding the incident on Friday and said there was no negligence on their part.


According to witnesses, several hours before the students found dead, a notice was made from the same apartment and four people were hospitalized due to gas poisoning.


The team from the gas company knocked on the door of the students' house and left on the assumption that there is nobody inside after receiving no response.


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Demir's remarks, however, in the press conference has raised eyebrows with many newspapers called for his resignation.


On Saturday, Demir apologized from the families of the students over his gaffes in the press conference, saying his remarks were misunderstood. He decided to resign from his post, Demir said in a written statement.



Demir asked reporters not to criticize the gas company as it is in the middle of the privatization process and such criticism may cause reduction in the price of the firm.


He also claimed the students were naked when they were found, a similar rhetoric with the Islamist media who blamed the kids for celebrating the New Year with alcohol, implying they were punished for their sins.


The police officers who investigate the crime scene denied the claims, saying one but all of the kids were in their beds sleeping when killed. One of them was found right in front of the door, prompting assumptions that she was trying to open the door to escape.


In the news conference Demir also asked reporters not to ask questions, saying he has to "catch the Friday prayer." Some newspapers noted Demir did not even bothered to wear a necktie at such an important news conference. Islamists see neckties as the symbols of Western values.


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Demir was appointed by Melih Gokcek, the Ankara Mayor from the Islamist-rooted ruling party. Observers and commentators underlined the appointments made to critical positions during the AKP government were not based on expertise but on ideology.



Hurriyet daily wrote the headline as "Natural Gaffe Manager" and noted Demir made many gaffes in the press conference to defend his company, while Turkish people mourned for the seven students.


Milliyet urged him to resign in its headline story. "Demir's remarks as 'some of them were naked' created a huge outrage as the deaths of seven university students shook Turkey. Demir's claims were denied by both police and locksmith," it wrote.

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Vatan daily said "He is lying" and added that Demir tried to mislead the facts to save his company. It also noted the director-general attended the press conference dressed like "as he is going to a soccer game."


"I am considering resignation but Mr. Gokcek objects," Vatan quoted Demir as saying.



The Islamist daily Vakit drew fierce criticism when it blamed the kids for celebrating the New Year with alcohol. It also implied they deserved it as it is a sin to hold such celebrations.

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Another pro-AKP daily, Sabah, said the catastrophe happened because of a tiny leak in the pipe. The daily did not mention any of the gaffes made by Demir, but it said the pipe could have been changed for 4 TL.

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