Four smugglers, accused in Hungary of causing the death by suffocation of seventy-one migrants, in 2015, were sentenced on Thursday to twenty-five years in prison. Others involved in the international smuggling network were sentenced to between three and 12 years in prison.
The Hungarian prosecutor appealed the verdict on the grounds that the sentences were too lenient, calling instead for life-long sentences.
The vehicle, bearing the icon of a Slovak poultry processing company, was found on 27 August 2015 in eastern Austria. The “truck of shame”, had taken to the road the day before, from the border between Hungary and Serbia, en route to Western Europe. The court heard that the stowaways died just three hours after departure.
The fifty-nine men, eight women and four miners had only 14 square meters and 30 cubic meters of air to breathe. When they realised that they were going to die, they made so much noise in their sealed compartment that in panic the driver asked his superiors by phone if he could open it.
On a tape recording of the phone call Samsoor L, the Afghan ringleader, who had already pocketed between 1,000 and 1,500 euros per head, can be heard saying to the driver “let them die. Its an order.”
Hans Peter Doskozil, the police chief who had managed the discovery of the truck, argued that, given the gravity of the charges, the sentence handed down seems rather lenient. “It is true that I expected, for such a crime, the maximum penalty,” he reacted in the Austrian press, saying he still haunted today by the conditions in which these migrants died, mowed down by greed in the heart of Europe, after escaping the bombs of the Middle East or the repression of the Taliban.