Hungary: trial starts in case of 71 migrants suffocated in truck in 2015

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-22 02:15:37|Editor: MJ
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KECSKEMET, Hungary, June 21 (Xinhua) -- Eleven men, one Afghan, one Lebanese-Bulgarian and the others of Bulgarian nationality, went on Trial Wednesday in the town of Kecskemet, Hungary, for the terrible deaths of 71 migrants found in an abandoned refrigerated lorry in Austria in August 2015.

Fifty-nine men, eight women and four children, seeking refuge from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan stuffed and found dead inside a refrigerated lorry of only 17 square meters near the Hungarian border in August 2015 generated repulsion both in Hungary and abroad. The oldest victim was 54 years old; the youngest was only ten months old.

The trial started with the presence of more than 60 journalists, many from Austria, France and Germany besides the Hungarians, but with no relatives of the defunct.

Ten of the 11 accused were present at the court in Kecskemet, a Hungarian city where the smugglers purchased the truck and organized their smuggling trips from Serbia to Germany. One perpetrator is a fugitive being tried in absentia.

The Afghan, identified as 30-year-old Samsoor L. and being the leader, arrived first and showed a provocative smile at the crowd. He also had a sign in his hands saying in Arabic that he was an "Afghan Muslim" and that the "prosecutor was a liar."

The first day of the trial that will supposedly go on until the end of the year, was reserved for the prosecution to read all of the indictment points brought up against the suspects.

The start of the trial was somewhat delayed by an argument between Samsoor L. and an interpreter, as the suspect argued he could not clearly understand the presentation of the prosecutor, despite being a polyglot speaking at least five languages: Pashtu, English, Serbian, Hungarian and Arabic.

The prosecutor, Gabor Schmidt, explained in details that the criminals organized the illegal crossing of 1,200 people in 31 occasions through Western Europe, between February and August of 2015. They used closed trucks, without enough air, unsuitable for human transport. The 30 year-old Afghan leader of the criminals earned some 300,000 euros with the illegal transports.

According to the prosecution, they were very well organized, with distinct roles being attributed for enrolling chauffeurs, transferring money, and buying trucks. They bought at least 14 different trucks for their smuggling trips, which were usually abandoned in parking lots of commercial centers.

An aggravating circumstance was the fact that the suspects have repeated their inhuman action just a day after the tragedy, placing 67 migrants in a similar, closed truck with no ventilation system. They were transported to Austria and luckily they have survived by a close shot, as they had to kick the door of the truck out from the inside to get fresh air.

While all are accused of human trafficking and torture, four including the Afghan have also been charged with "homicide with particular cruelty" and face life imprisonment.

"While we know that killing the migrants was not the objective of the suspects, we also know that they knew that the victims were crying for their life, yet they did not open the door of the truck to let them breathe, and their action led to the very painful death of these people," the prosecutor underlined.

Among the aggravating causes, the prosecution listed that the smuggling was carried out continuously, to earn money, by physically and psychologically harming the victims, who had many women and children among them.

That is why the prosecution asked for life sentences for the four alleged human smugglers who are also facing murder charges. The other defendants are facing shorter prison terms and expulsion from Hungary.

At least some 400,000 migrants passed through Hungary in 2015, nearly all on their way to Germany and other destinations in Western Europe. The flow of people ebbed considerably after September 2015, when Hungary built razor-wire fences on its southern borders with Serbia and Croatia.

The trial will resume Thursday with the hearing of the first two suspects, along with the appearance of experts and witnesses, in front of the Judges in August and September, while the verdict could be pronounced before the end of the year.