“Smuggling is currently punished very severely.” Two years is certainly to be expected. “A confession is a significant mitigating factor”says the defense attorney in front of the jury room to his client, who is waiting for his trial accompanied by a prison guard.
The previously blameless man from Syria has been in custody in the Ried prison since July 2023. Today he will be tried by jury for the crime of smuggling. The judges in the Ried regional court are currently having to deal with smugglers more often; the number of arrests has increased sharply in the recent past.
Lack of money as a motive
“I have been living in France for ten years, where I have a residence permit. Unfortunately, I was fired by my employer, so I lost my apartment and was on the street”says the defendant to judge Stefan Kiesl. Lack of money was the reason for his crimes.
“On July 8th, the accused transported four Syrians from Vienna to Munich for a wage of 400 euros per person. On July 9th he wanted to bring twelve Turkish nationals again from Vienna to Munich”says public prosecutor Franz-Joseph Zimmer.
On the second smuggler trip, the man was caught in Ort im Innkreis, just before the German border. When questioned by the police, the 40-year-old admitted to the first smuggling trip on his own initiative and also opened up about the people behind the smuggling ring. A rare stroke of luck for the police.
He confesses without “Ifs and buts” Guilty as charged, says the defendant, whose statements are translated by an interpreter.
For this reason, Judge Kiesl can forego the invited witnesses; instead, he quotes from the file so that the lay judges can get an impression of the smuggling trips. After the defendant had let the four people get off in Munich after the successful trip on July 8th, he still had to get one “Confirmation video” to prove to the masterminds that the tugboat trip was successfully completed.
Long walks and thirst
It was only at short notice that the accused received the various pick-up addresses of the people to be transported via written messages on his cell phone.
The judge also reads out excerpts from statements made by the people who were dragged. “We flew from Turkey to Belgrade by plane. We met other people there. With them we crossed the green border into Hungary. We walked for around 20 hours, led by two Afghans. We were picked up in Hungary and taken to Vienna”, a man is quoted as saying. They were then taken to a house in Vienna. You weren’t given anything to eat or drink there before you were picked up again at some point and transported further towards Germany. “You could hardly move on the journey. I estimate that in total my father paid more than 6,000 euros for the transport from Turkey.”
The journey in the Opel Zafira with eleven other people was terrible. “I was afraid that my son would die of thirst. Luckily we were rescued by the police”, a woman is quoted as saying. She personally handed over 7,000 euros to a man. Another woman commented on the journey from Vienna towards Germany in a crammed car “somewhat okay”.
“On the last trip they were traveling with twelve people in a car that was registered for a maximum of six people. This journey was dangerous”says prosecutor Zimmer in his closing argument. “My client was in need of money and now he is aware of the seriousness of the crime”the defender also keeps it short.
One and a half years in prison
Judge Kiesl sentenced the 40-year-old to one and a half years of unconditional imprisonment. He considers the blamelessness, the remorseful confession and the fact that the accused revealed the names of several people behind the crime to the police to be mitigating.
“It’s very unusual for someone to speak so openly and also name names”says Kiesl. Due to the latest ruling by the Higher Regional Court, a conditional leniency in punishment is not an option from a general preventive perspective. “You are certainly not a big fish in this ‘trafficking pond’, but anyone who contributes to people being trafficked across Europe in this way must be severely punished. That has to stop. People give everything they have to get back to where they started at the end of the day. They enriched themselves from this cake, that’s why they’re going to prison”says Kiesl. The defendant thanks him and accepts the verdict. The judgment is final.
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