Two alleged smugglers appeared in Turkish court over the drowning death of a Syrian toddler. Photographs of the boy's lifeless body washed up on shore brought the world's attention to the plight of refugees.
Muwafaka Alabash and Ase Alfrhad appeared before a court in the western Turkish city of Bodrum on Thursday. They were accused of smuggling migrants and causing the death of five people, including three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, his mother Rihan and five-year-old brother Galip through "deliberate negligence."
Alabash and Alfrhad denied the charges, saying that Aylan's father, Abdullah Kurdi, was responsible for organizing the trip. Alfrhad said he was in Bodrum for a business trip and denied having anything to do with the deaths. "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 [organization] and that he went on television as a hero."
Alabash also said he was not a smuggler, but a migrant and that Kurdi had told him to keep an eye on a smuggler who was charging money for the group to be taken to Greece.
The two face up to 35 years in prison if found guilty.
According to Dogan news agency, Aylan's father was also charged, but did not appear in the proceedings on Thursday. He left for his hometown Kobane soon after and was believed to be outside Turkey during the time of the trial.
The photograph of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi's lifeless body on a shore in Turkey shocked the world when it was released last September. The picture and the public pressure it created prompted many EU leaders to act in the migrant crisis.
Turkey is a major destination for war refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 260,000 people since 2011. Ankara is hosting nearly three million migrants and has threatened to allow refugees to enter the European Union unless the EU puts more pressure on the Syrian government and its allies to end the conflict.
mg/jil (AFP, AP, Reuters)