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Traffickers jailed for Chinese deaths


ROTTERDAM, Netherlands -- Seven people have been convicted in The Netherlands for trafficking illegal Chinese immigrants.

Two other defendants were found not guilty. They were all arrested after 58 immigrants were found dead in a truck at Dover, England.

Presiding judge Jos Silvis told the court: "No punishment can make good the deaths of so many victims and alleviate the suffering of their relatives."


Journalist Paul Van Gessel reports on the sentence

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Journalist Rick Konijmenbelt: Dutch authority link not proven

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Two defendants -- Gursel Ozcan and Haci Demir -- received nine year sentences. The others received sentences ranging from 30 months to seven years.

A further two people -- lorry driver Perry Wacker and Chinese interpreter Ying Guo -- have already been jailed by an English court for their part in the smuggling operation.

The lawyer for Demir -- who was one of only two defendants in court for the judgment -- said his client would appeal.

Eight of the men in the Dutch court case were charged with being responsible, or co-responsible, for the suffocation of the passengers, and one was charged with fraud, for allegedly giving false information while registering the vehicle under his name.

Sixty Chinese people tried to illegally enter Britain hidden in the back of the sealed lorry container laden with tomatoes that arrived in a ferry at Dover on June 18 -- one of the hottest days of the year.

Port officials at the port of in Dover, England, found the bodies of 54 men and four women when they inspected a lorry that had travelled to Dover's eastern docks from The Netherlands. Only two had survived.

Those who died suffocated after the only air vent on the side of the lorry was closed during the five-hour ferry crossing from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.

Each of the would-be immigrants had paid tens of thousands of dollars each to Chinese smuggling gangs known as "snakeheads" for the chance to begin a new life in the West.

Lorry driver Perry Wacker was found guilty of manslaughter by a British court in April and sentenced to 14 years in jail.

His co-defendant, Chinese interpreter Ying Guo, was given six years for conspiracy to smuggle immigrants.

In the Dutch trial, suspect Osman Ocalan gave details of how he and other suspects had prepared the container in which 60 illegal immigrants were to be shipped to Britain last year.

The court heard that Ocalan had told police under questioning there had been smuggling operations of Chinese immigrants to Britain 22 or 23 times.

Ocalan said he had helped stack tomatoes in the container and said he heard other suspects speaking about the truck's ventilation hatch and their worries about the air supply.

Gursel Ozcan, who some witnesses said was the leader of the smuggling operation, said he had no explanation for the fact that his fingerprints were on the Dover container.

Ocalan said he had driven a van to a Rotterdam address, where Chinese men had told him to park the van with its rear to the house. Several Chinese immigrants then boarded.

Another accused called as a witness said Chinese men had been in charge of supplying Chinese immigrants to the operation.

Earlier, Rotterdam Regional Police Inspector Jan Hessel 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.

It is believed the 60 left China in early June last year and travelled first to Yugoslavia, then across Europe through Hungary, Austria, France and Holland before starting the final leg of their journey to Britain.

China lorry deaths trial opens
Chinese immigrants' grim journey
Driver jailed for Chinese deaths
Police hail driver's conviction
Dutch police make arrest in deadly immigrant smuggling case
China's fight against the outgoing tide of illegal immigrants

Port of Dover
Kent County Constabulary

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