Turkish prosecutors demand 35 years’ jail over refugee toddler’s death
ANKARATurkish prosecutors Dec. 10 demanded 35-year jail terms for two alleged people-smugglers blamed for the death of a 3-year-old boy whose beached corpse came to symbolize Syria’s refugee crisis, local media reported.
The suspects, both Syrians, stand accused of “causing death by deliberate negligence” and “migrant smuggling” after five Syrian refugees including Kurdish toddler Alan Kurdi died when their boat sank in September while on its way to Greece, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The sight of the boy’s body on a beach outside the southwestern resort of Bodrum, caused an outpouring of anger across the world, pressuring European leaders to begin to tackle the refugee crisis.
The boy’s mother and brother, who were in the flimsy boat seeking to cross the Aegean Sea for the Greek island of Kos, died in the same accident.
His father, who survived, returned to the Syrian town of Kobane to bury his family.
The prosecutors’ indictment was sent to the criminal court in Bodrum, Anadolu said, adding that an investigation was underway to identify six other suspects including four Turks.
The report, which did not identify the two suspects, said prosecutors are demanding separate 35-year jail sentences for each of them.
After the Bodrum court approves the indictment, a hearing date will be fixed.
The move comes amid more refugees’ deaths as they attempt the perilous voyage to Greece.
Four migrants died while nine remain missing after their boat capsized off Turkey’s Aegean coast, Anadolu Agency reported. A boat smuggling Iraqi refugees from Turkey’s Aegean Aydın province to Greece capsized near Bulamaç Island, early on Dec. 10.
Turkish and Greek coast guards launched a rescue operation in the region and retrieved the bodies of four refugees. The Turkish Coast Guard also rescued two refugees, as five others managed to swim to the Turkish mainland.
Rescue operations are continuing as nine migrants are still reportedly missing.
With its strategic location between Europe and the Middle East, as well as a long border with war-torn Syria and Iraq, Turkey has become a transit point for refugees seeking to cross into the European Union.
The eastern Mediterranean route has become the primary migration route in 2015, leaving behind the Central Mediterranean route, as more than 350,000 migrants had crossed to Greece by September this year, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Meanwhile, the number of migrants saved after making failed attempts to cross via the sea from Turkey to Europe has increased by over 500 percent in 2015 compared to last year.
In 2014, the number of migrants rescued by Turkey’s Coast Guard and local institutions was 14,961, in 574 separate incidents, according to Prime Ministry figures.
So far this year, the number is 79,489 migrants in 2,133 incidents. In addition, more than 200 smuggling gangs have been targeted in security operations launched by the authorities over the last two years.