A Turkish court today sentenced two Syrian smugglers to four years and two months each in prison over the death of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi and four other people, state media reported.
The court in the Aegean resort of Bodrum convicted the two of human trafficking but acquitted them of the charge of causing the deaths through deliberate negligence, the Anadolu Agency reported.
The image of the boy’s lifeless body lying face down on a Turkish beach galvanised world attention on the refugee crisis, graphically illustrating the magnitude of the migrants’ suffering.
Aylan’s brother, Galip, and mother, Rihan, were also among the five victims who drowned when their boat went down in the ill-fated journey from Bodrum to the Greek island of Kos last year.
While Turkish authorities have given the boy’s first name as Aylan, his aunt says the family prefers that it be transliterated as Alan.
Trials in Turkey usually take months - even years - to conclude, but the verdict, which came just a month after the trial opened, appeared to be an effort by the country to show that it is cracking down on human traffickers, just days before a March 7 summit between Turkey and the European Union to discuss the migrant crisis.
Turkey is under pressure to reduce the tide of migrants to Europe and to combat the smuggling rings since it reached a deal with the EU in November.
Under the deal, Turkey is scheduled to receive a 3 billion euro (USD 3.26 billion) fund to help the country deal with Syrian refugees.
The defendants, Syrian nationals Muwafaka Alabash and Asem Alfrhad, had denied any responsibility in the migrants’ deaths. Instead, they blamed Aylan’s father, Abdullah Kurdi, for the deaths - accusing him of organising the trip.
Prosecutors had sought maximum 35 years in prison for each. Abdullah Kurdi has since returned to Syria. Turkish officials say authorities in 2015 detained more than 4,400 smugglers who organise the often-dangerous crossings in frail boats.