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Afghan, Bulgarians Get Life Sentences Over Deaths Of 71 Migrants

Police stand behind the defendants as the verdicts are read out on June 20.

An Afghan human trafficker and three Bulgarian accomplices have received life sentences over the deaths of 71 migrants who suffocated inside a sealed refrigeration truck abandoned near an Austrian village in 2015.

The ruling on June 20 by the Hungarian appeals court came after the Afghan ring leader, 32-year-old Samsoor Lahoo, and his accomplices were found guilty of organized human trafficking and manslaughter over the August 2015 tragedy.

Initially, the four had been sentenced to 25 years in prison after the court found that the men refused to open the doors to let air in, despite pleas from the people who were suffocating inside.

But the judge presiding over the appeal, Erik Mezolaki, said on June 20 that the harsher sentence better reflected the weight of the crime.

Mezolaki said three of the traffickers would have no possibility of parole. He said the fourth would serve a minimum 30 years in prison.

The three Bulgarian accomplices were identified as Lahoo’s deputy, the truck driver, and the driver of a car that escorted the truck.

The victims were refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

They included eight women, four children, and 59 men.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP