A Turkish prosecutor has indicted 14 suspects on charges of “manslaughter with intent” following the death of three migrants in a failed attempt to cross the Aegean Sea to Europe, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.
Turkish Coast Guard teams had rescued 15 migrants and recovered the bodies of three others on Sept. 17 after a boat capsized off the coast of Bodrum in southwestern Muğla province while on the way to the Greek island of Kos.
The Bodrum Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office presented the indictment to the court this week, launching a landmark legal case in which all suspects linked to the human smuggling operation will stand trial.
The sunken boat’s owner, Mücahit Tunc; its operators, Adnan Bayruğ and Fırat Yorulmaz; its captain, Hasan Mohannad; its repair chief, Nihat Tiper; repairmen Erol Bilgiç and Özhan Tekin; the ring’s field operators, Haval Radha Salih, Barış Gedikli, Dursun Anıl Aksu, Ahmet Onur Üremiş, Ahmet Abdullah Şah and Evren Şimşek; and the owner of the hotel where the migrants stayed, Esra Mamaker, are the suspects in the case.
The prosecutor charged all 14 suspects with “manslaughter with intent” and demanded three life sentences for each.
According to the indictment, the suspects knew that the boat, which could carry seven people, was leaking but still filled it with 18 migrants after a hurried repair.
“They all knew that the boat could sink, leading to the death of the migrants, but they ignored it and committed the crime of manslaughter with intent,” it added.
One of the victims told the police that they had sailed only 100 meters when the captain jumped into the water without saying anything to the migrants after speaking on the phone.
The migrants, including 15 Iraqi nationals and a Syrian, soon found themselves in the water. While 15 of them were rescued by Turkish Coast Guard, the bodies of two women were found floating in the sea and another inside the sunken boat.
Turkey has been a main route for migrants trying to cross into Europe, especially since 2011, when the Syrian civil war began.