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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."

Two defendants -- Gursel Ozcan, a Turkish national, and Haci Demir, a Dutch resident of Turkish origin - each received nine year sentences and were fined 97,000 guilders ($38,000) for running an international human trafficking ring. 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.

They have 14 days to appeal. The lawyer for Demir -- who was one of only two defendants in court for the judgment -- said his client would appeal.

Prosecutors had demanded sentences of up to 20 years against the men, who had been 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.

Judge Silvis said the men loaded the Chinese onto the truck knowing they would have to wait for hours in the heat without proper ventilation.

"They didn't plan their deaths, but could have avoided them," Silvis said.

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.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Johan Klunder said the victims had been "held in conditions unfit for animals" and that the suspects knew there was a risk of killing the passengers.

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
April 19, 2001
Chinese immigrants' grim journey
April 5, 2001
Police hail driver's conviction
April 5, 2001
Dutch police make arrest in deadly immigrant smuggling case
June 20, 2000
China's fight against the outgoing tide of illegal immigrants
April 4, 2000

Port of Dover
Kent County Constabulary

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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