Four men jailed for 25 years for deaths of 71 migrants in a lorry in Hungary
The four main suspects involved in the deaths of 71 migrants in a lorry on an Austrian motorway, were jailed for 25 years yesterday, in a case that caused international revulsion.
The trial took place in Hungary, which took over the proceedings from Vienna after it emerged that the migrants had suffocated in Hungary before reaching Austria.
Ten other suspects were jailed for between three and 12 years by the court, in the southern town of Kecskemet.
The men were charged with “aggravated murder with particular cruelty” in the year-long trial, which put the spotlight on the plight of migrants in the hands of human traffickers.
State prosecutor Gabor Schmidt asked for life terms for the key suspects, and that three should get life without parole: the Afghan ringleader, 31; a Bulgarian associate, also 31; and the Bulgarian driver, 27. The fourth was a 40-yearold Bulgarian.
The Budapest-based ring had more than 15 vehicles and transported refugees from Greece along the western Balkans to Europe. Investigators said the gang had smuggled more than 1,100 people from Hungary into Austria since February 2015, charging up to €1,500 (Dh6,500) each.
The motorway victims – 59
men, eight women and four children, including a baby – came from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. They had been dead for two days when police found the lorry, their bodies piled on top of each other.
Having made their way to the Serbian border with Hungary, the group of 71 were packed into the airtight lorry and they slowly suffocated.
Their cries to the traffickers to stop and open the doors for fresh air were ignored. Once he realised what had happened, the driver abandoned the refrigerated lorry by the side of the motorway.
In court, the accused claimed they had not known their cargo was dying, but evidence produced showed otherwise.
Ringleader Samsoor Lahoo told the court he “had not wanted anyone’s death”. But police intercepts of calls made with his men on the lorry, asking what to do, came across differently – he told them not to open the doors. “Let them die instead. That’s an order,” Lahoo is alleged to have said.
“If they die, let him dump them in a forest in Germany.”
For Mr Schmidt, Lahoo showed only “endless greed” and “frightening indifference” to the plight of migrants desperate to get to Europe.