Budapest, Hungary – On Thursday, a Hungarian court of appeals in the southern city of Szeged sentenced four foreign migrants traffickers to life.
The four smugglers, one Afghan man by the name of Samsoor Lahoo considered the leader of the group along with his three Bulgarian accomplices, were convicted for their roles in the death of 71 migrants, including eight women and four children, who were found dead in the back of an abandoned refrigerated truck on an Austrian highway, close to the Hungarian border, back in 2015.
The migrants, who came from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, had reportedly boarded the vehicle in Hungary, close to the border with Serbia, and died within hours while still on Hungarian soil. They were heading to Germany.
“Seventy one people died a painful death in the truck’s cargo box”, judge Erik Mezolaki said. “They lived through having their relatives, children and acquaintances die one after the other next to them while facing the unavoidable fact that this is the fate that awaits them, too”.
According to phone-tapping recordings, traffickers ring-leader Samsoor Lahoo had been informed that the migrants were unable to breathe in the back-compartment by his team but still forbid them, throughout the course of their journey crossing Hungary, to open the refrigerated box.
Last year, the four men had already been convicted to 25 years in prison, with the new decision extending it to life sentences for all four defendants. They were convicted on the grounds of participating to a criminal organization, human smuggling and manslaughter.
Three of them were denied the possibility of a parole, but one Bulgarian man could request his release after serving at least 30 years in jail. Ten other defendants involved in the death of the migrants were also sentenced to lighter sentences, ranging from four to twelve years of imprisonment.
The incident, that occurred at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015-2016, had shocked public opinion all over Europe.