Four men go before Hungarian court after 71 found dead in lorry

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Four foreign men have today gone before a court in Hungary on suspicion of people smuggling. Their detention relates to Thursday's discovery of a lorry full of corpses in Austria. The death toll was yesterday finalised at 71.

Today's hearing took place at the Palace of Justice in Kecskemet, pictured here from file.
Image: Tothsandor92.

The lorry had been abandoned since Wednesday on the hard shoulder of the "Eastern Motorway", near the Hungarian border. Roadworkers became suspicious of dark liquid seeping from the vehicle, and responding police found the bodies. Initial police estimates were that 20–50 were suffocated in the back of the lorry which was near Parndorf.

The arrested men are thought to include the vehicle's owner and at least two drivers. Three are Bulgarian and one is from Afghanistan. Criminal suspects in Hungary can generally be held for 72 hours before charge but prosecutors, citing the seriousness of the case, want the period extended. Extradition to Austria is possible.

Of the 71 dead, 59 are men, eight are women, and four are children. The children are thought to be aged three, eight, and ten years, alongside an eighteen-month-old baby. "There was also a Syrian travel document found" police spokesman Hans Peter Doskozil told journalists "so of course our first assumption is that these people were migrants, and likely a group of Syrian migrants. We can rule out that they were Africans".

The four accused were escorted into court in Kecskemet, central Hungary, by a police convoy. Reportedly the lorry traveled from Kecskemet. Hungary is presently building a border fence across the Serbian frontier, as migrants from war-torn Syria and other regions seek access to the Schengen Area of free movement, which covers most of the EU.

Screengrab of Hyza graphic from the company homepage.
Image: Hyza.

Slovak chicken meat company Hyza, a previous owner, previously told Wikinews the lorry has changed hands several times in roughly the last year. After they sold it they say it was exported to Hungary; it now bears Hungarian plates but still features Hyza branding including pictures of meat.

On the day of the discovery Hyza quickly removed a graphic from their homepage featuring cartoon chicken stowaways in a car being inspected at a customs post. The stowaways also appeared with a line through them alongside the word "imigranti" and the site www.imigranti.sk in one corner. On the other side was Hyza's logo. Imigranti.sk is also unavailable.

Police today found 26 migrants in a lorry near Braunau am Inn, Austria. The driver, from Romania, refused to stop for police and was arrested following a chase. Police said three children were hospitalised for "severe dehydration". Found near the German border, the migrants were from Afghanistan, Syria, and Bangladesh.


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