Hungary: Traffickers in human beings sentenced to 25 years for 71 deaths, prosecutor wants life sentences
A court in Kecskemét, Hungary has sentenced the four main defendants in the trial of the death by suffocation of 71 migrants in a refrigerator truck three years ago to 25 years in prison. The prosecution sought life sentences for them.
Another 10 people convicted in the case have been given sentences of between three and 12 years. Both the defense and the prosecution have appealed the verdicts handed down on 14 June.
The corpses were discovered by Austrian Police on 27 August 2015 in an abandoned, closed refrigerator truck close to the highway and not far from the Hungarian border. Those in the vehicle were migrants, most of them from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, including eight women and four children.
Because the deaths happened before the truck crossed the border, the investigation and trial was handled by Hungary. The head of the trafficking gang is a 30-year-old Afghan who was granted international protection by Hungary and subsequently lost it.
The other members of the criminal gang are Bulgarian citizens. The four main defendants in the trial, which began one year ago on 21 June, were the boss of the organization, his deputy, the driver of the refrigerator truck, and the driver of an accompanying vehicle.
Three of those defendants remain at large and were sentenced in absentia. A representative of the state prosecutor announced after the verdict was handed down that the prosecution will appeal the part of the decision about the four main culprits responsible for the cruel death of the migrants.
The prosecution is insisting that the convicts be given life sentences. Presiding Judge János Jádi explained the court's decision to reject that motion by saying that the perpetrators obviously had not intended to kill the migrants.
The judge said that in his view the perpetrators committed a "conscious omission" motivated by a mixture of "profiteering, fear of discovery, and behavior under the influence of emotion." The defense attorney has said he would also appeal.
The defendants are mainly asking that the crime be recategorized as the less serious crime of manslaughter. They intend to propose less severe sentencing in connection with that request.
According to the indictment, the group transported around 1 200 people between February and August 2015 across the border between Hungary and Serbia and made EUR 100 000 doing so. In 31 cases the conditions of transportation were just as dangerous as the case that ended in this tragedy.
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