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China lorry deaths trial opens

ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands -- The trial has begun of nine men accused of involvement in the deaths of 58 Chinese immigrants found in the back of a lorry in Dover last June.

The trial in Rotterdam, which has been delayed twice to give lawyers time to prepare their case, began hearing from police witnesses on Thursday.

Eight of the Dutchmen on trial, three of whom were born in Turkey, are charged with being responsible, or co-responsible, for the suffocation of the passengers.

They are also accused of human trafficking and being members of a criminal organisation.

The ninth is charged with fraud, for allegedly giving false information while registering the vehicle under his name.

The first witness to appear before the court was Rotterdam Regional Police Inspector Jan Hessel.

He said there had been contact between Dutch and British police who had been carrying out investigations into illegal human trafficking before the fatal journey on June 19, 2000.

The Dutch public prosecutor has always denied that it, or the police authorities, knew the transport would take place, despite the main suspect and alleged ringleader Gursel Ozcan, 36, having been under observation and been suspected of being involved in human trafficking.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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