Sunday 18 March 2018

Alan Kurdi death: Two alleged people-smugglers on trial in Turkey

Alan Kurdi's body was found on Fener Burnu Beach, Bodrum (AP)
Alan Kurdi's body was found on Fener Burnu Beach, Bodrum (AP)

Two suspected people-smugglers have gone on trial in Turkey accused of causing the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi and four other people.

The image of the boy's lifeless body lying face down on a Turkish beach galvanised world attention on the refugee crisis, graphically illustrating the magnitude of the suffering, the lives destroyed and the treacherous journeys the migrants risk.

Alan's brother Galip and mother Rihan were also among the five victims who drowned when their boat went down on the journey from Bodrum to the Greek island of Kos.

Syrian nationals Muwafaka Alabash and Asem Alfrhad denied any responsibility over the migrants' deaths at their opening hearing.

Instead they blamed Alan's father, Abdullah Kurdi, for the deaths - accusing him of organising the trip.

The two have been charged with human smuggling and causing the deaths of five people "through deliberate negligence". They face up to 35 years in prison each if convicted.

Alfrhad told the court he was in Bodrum on a business trip with his partner and was not involved in the incident.

"I don't know why I am here or why I have been jailed for the past five months," Alfrhad said. "My family spoke with the survivors after the accident ... They said Abdullah Kurdi headed this (organisation) and that he then went on television as a hero."

Alabash also maintained Abdullah Kurdi was involved in the organisation of the trip. The man said he was not a smuggler but a migrant who had been instructed by Abdullah Kurdi to stay back and keep an eye on a Turkish smuggler who had the migrants' money until the group reached Greece. In return, Alabash said, Abdullah Kurdi promised he would be taken on the next trip for free.

Abdullah Kurdi has since returned to Syria.

The trial was adjourned until March 2.

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