Four Jailed for Life in Austria Migrant Death Truck Case

SZEGED, Hungary (Reuters) -
In this Aug. 27, 2015 file photo, police walk near a truck on the shoulder of the A4 highway near Parndorf, south of Vienna, Austria. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Four human traffickers were jailed for life in a Hungarian court on Thursday for the deaths of 71 migrants whose decomposing bodies were found crammed inside a truck dumped on an Austrian motorway in August 2015.

In a final ruling, trial judge Erik Mezolaki said three of the traffickers would have no possibility of parole, while the fourth would serve a minimum of 30 years.

An Afghan ringleader and three Bulgarian accomplices were guilty of manslaughter for refusing to stop the refrigerated truck to open the doors and let air in, despite the pleas of those inside.

The passengers realized they were in danger of suffocating, so they banged on the doors, screamed and shouted to get the driver’s attention, a judge told an earlier court hearing last year.

The deaths of 59 men, eight women and four children from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan shocked Europe as it was struggling to cope with a massive influx of migrants.

The incident was the worst of its kind on the route across the Balkans taken by hundreds of thousands fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.