SOMA, Turkey - Dozens of suspects will stand trial on Monday over the mining disaster last year in the Turkish town of Soma that left 301 miners dead and tarnished the image of the government under Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Forty-five people are to stand trial, including eight former top managers from the Soma Komur group that ran the mine who have been accused of murder over the tragedy, Turkey's worst ever mining disaster.

The case will be heard around 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Soma in western Turkey by a court in the town of Akhisar. The trial is expected to be lengthy, with 487 civil parties and 436 witnesses to be heard. The accident on May 13, 2014 raised new concerns about Turkey's dire industrial safety record and exposed the lacklustre reaction of the government led by Erdogan, now president but then premier.

Erdogan had notoriously appeared to play down the disaster, saying that "accidents are in the nature of the business" and comparing it to accidents in industrial revolution-era Britain.

The tragedy sparked protests that rattled the government a year after the mass anti-government rallies in Istanbul and elsewhere, with an advisor to Erdogan flaming tensions by kicking a protestor in Soma.

The disaster happened when one of the pits of the Soma mine became engulfed by flames and carbon monoxide gas, trapping a team of some 800 miners working inside.

Prosecutors say that the miners were killed after inhaling gas and toxic smoke from the fire which was caused when an abandoned pile of coal left next to an electrical transformer caught fire.

Many miners died within minutes and only those working far from the centre of the fire managed to escape to the surface.

The body of the last miner missing was brought to the surface four days later, bringing the final toll to 301 dead and 162 wounded.

A report after the disaster found a long list of faults at the mine, including a lack of carbon monoxide detectors, gas masks in poor condition and bad ventilation.

"In 2009, a report said that production at the mine could not resume due to the risk of fire without all the security measures being adopted," it said.

The mine was shut down by the previous owner in 2009 and then restarted in 2013, in a grand opening ceremony attended by top government officials.

Lawyers for the families of the victims say that the owners of the Soma mine had sought over-exploitation for the sake of profit, resulting in "working conditions worthy of slavery".

"The management of the mine were perfectly aware of the danger of death which was hanging over the workers," a lawyer for the victims, Selcuk Kozagacli, told AFP.

"They should have closed the shafts but that would have made the costs rise. They had expected deaths and factored them into their calculations."

The eight top managers from Soma Komur on trial, including chief executive Can Gurkan and general manager Ramazan Dogru, have been charged by prosecutors with murder in an unusual move for an industrial accident trial.

Prosecutors have requested they are sentenced to 25 years in prison for every single one of the 301 victims.

Other company officials have been charged with homicide by conscious negligence or reckless homicide and also face lengthy jail terms.

In expectation of possible tensions, police have been drafted in from surrounding regions to ensure order outside the court, a building usually used as a cultural centre turned into a court to accommodate the scale of the trial.

Lawyers for the defendants declined to comment when contacted by AFP. But despite the scale of the trial, some think that the scope of the case should be even wider.

"Politicians should be in the defendants' box. We hope to prove this during the process," said Kozagacli.

"The state is implicated in the reopening of the mine and was buying all its production," he added.

He noted that the wife of Ramazan Dogru had been serving on the city council as a representative of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

A month after the disaster, the government pushed through parliament a law aimed at improving Turkey's standards of labour safety.

But Turkey was hit by a new mining disaster in October 2014 when 18 miners where killed after floodwaters engulfed their mine in the southern region of Karaman.