Turkey tries ‘people smugglers’ over Syrian toddler Aylan’s death

The trial of Syrian nationals Muwafaka Alabash and Asem Alfrhad opened at the criminal court, if convicted, they face up to 35 years in jail

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Two suspected people smugglers went on trial in Turkey on Thursday charged with causing the death in September of a Syrian toddler, images of whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach shocked the world.

The trial of Syrian nationals Muwafaka Alabash and Asem Alfrhad opened at the criminal court in the western Turkish resort of Bodrum, the Dogan news agency reported. If convicted, they face up to 35 years in jail.

They are accused of smuggling migrants and causing the deaths of five people, including three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, his five-year-old elder brother Galip and his mother Rihan.

The victims were among one million people who last year sought to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey in a bid to reach EU member Greece.

But with the migrants crammed into unstable boats and equipped with sub-standard life jackets, the crossing is fraught with danger and like many others their bid hit disaster.

The photograph of Aylan Kurdi, in his toddler’s clothes and face down in the sand, washed up on a Turkish beach, shocked public opinion in Europe and to a certain extent prompted greater action from EU leaders in the migrant crisis.

Dogan reported that Aylan Kurdi’s father, Abdullah Kurdi, who survived the sinking of the boat, is also on trial in absentia over his role in the disaster. It was not immediately clear what charges he faces.

Abdullah Kurdi, from the mainly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobane on the Turkish border, is currently believed to be outside of Turkey.

Dogan confirmed he was not in court but the two Syrian suspects, who are currently in custody, were brought to the court by the police.

Turkey has become the major hub for Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi, Eritrean and other refugees and migrants seeking to undertake the risky crossing to the European Union in a flow that has caused huge alarm across the continent.

The Turkish government struck a deal with the EU in November to halt the flow of refugees, in return for three billion euros ($3.2 billion) in financial assistance.

But the deal and wintry weather in the Mediterranean do not appear to have deterred the migrants, with boats still arriving on the Greek islands daily.

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