The four people smugglers who abandoned a truck containing 71 migrants who later died by the side of a road in Hungary, in an incident which inadvertently sparked the migrant crisis of 2015, have each been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The leader, 31-year-old Afghan Samsoor Lahoo, and the three Bulgarians Metodi Georgiev, Vencislav Todorov, and Stojanov Ivajlo, were found guilty of murder on Thursday for abandoning the migrants in a locked container truck by the side of the A4 motorway in Austria. There will be no possibility of an early release for any of the convicts, Kronen Zeitung reports.
The death of the 59 men, eight women, and four children from various countries including Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, shocked the world when they were found suffocated to death by the side of a road in August of 2015. The incident led to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to declare that refugees were welcome in Germany and sparked the migrant crisis.
Each man tried to blame the others for the death of the 71 people but police were able to obtain phone conversations between members of the gang in which they spoke of hearing the men, women, and children in the van screaming for help and trying to smash open the locked doors or make desperate attempts to knock holes in the walls of the truck.
Neither the prosecutor nor the defence counsel was satisfied with the verdict, with prosecutor Gabor Schmidt promising to appeal the sentence claiming that it was too lenient.
Hungary: Trial Starts in Case of 71 Migrants Killed in Truck https://t.co/XlHtkt2QJa
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“The only sentence capable of achieving the aims of the penalty for these defendants is the sentence of life in prison,” he said.
Judge Janos Jadi highlighted the cruelty of the smugglers in abandoning the migrants but determined the men did not plan to kill them, influencing him against handing down life sentences as the murders were not premeditated.
Ten other gang members were also given sentences from three to twelve years for participation in a criminal organisation and other charges. Three gang members, including a senior figure ranking higher than Afghan Samsoor Lahoo in the group, remain on the run.
The conclusion of the trial marks the end of a major event in the history of the migrant crisis which, along with the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi in September 2015, led to the welcoming of well over a million migrants into Germany and other European countries.
In the years which followed the crisis, establishment governments, like that in Italy, have been toppled at the polls following the rise of anti-establishment populist parties and movements. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also looks set to face a crisis due to a deep internal rift over migration policy with her party’s long-time coalition ally, the Bavarian Christian Social Union, that could topple her as Chancellor.