A trial over the deaths of 24 illegal migrants traveling aboard a yacht when it sank off the coast of Kandıra in northwestern Turkey laid bare the human smugglers' scheme. Five were arrested after the Iraqi migrants' deaths during the incident in September 2017.
The indictment charged the suspects with deliberate manslaughter and human smuggling, saying they knowingly sent migrants to their deaths during a lengthy journey in an unsafe yacht.
Yesterday the defendants appeared in a court in Kocaeli province where Kandıra is located, but the hearing was adjourned after judges ordered a new expert witness report on the incident.
The prosecutors' indictment, which includes eyewitness accounts, says the suspects charged each migrant $2,000 for the journey to Romania and left the steering to inexperienced migrants. The yacht was struggling in a storm when it ran into a large vessel and sank. Forty migrants aboard were rescued but 24 others died. Survivors told investigators that they paid smugglers to take them to Romania, and they were brought to Kocaeli, near Istanbul, for the journey. An eyewitness acknowledged that one of the suspects contacted him "to show a place for the yacht to depart" in Kocaeli. According to the police report about the indictment, a suspect called another one after the sinking and told him the "(death) toll was rising." Still, the suspects decided to go on with their daily lives and went to the western city of İzmir on the day of the tragedy to spend money they had received from the migrants at a posh hotel. Turkey has been a major route for refugees trying to cross to Europe, especially since the beginning of the civil war in Syria about eight years ago. The northwestern sea route between Turkey and Romania is rarely used as most prefer traveling to Greek islands in close proximity to Turkey's Aegean shores. These are deadly journeys due to unsafe dinghies migrants without any experience steering and due to bad weather.