ANKARA, Turkey — A Turkish court on Friday sentenced two Syrian smugglers to four years and two months each in prison over the deaths of five people including 3-year-old Alan Kurdi, who galvanized world attention on the refugee crisis when a photo was published of him lying lifeless on a beach.
The court in the Aegean resort of Bodrum convicted the two of human trafficking but acquitted them of the charge of causing the drowning deaths through deliberate negligence.
The image of the Syrian boy’s body, face down on a Turkish beach, graphically illustrated the magnitude of migrants’ suffering.
Alan’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 at the end of the third hearing 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 before Monday’s 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 E.U. in November. Under the deal, Turkey is to get a $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 Alan’s father, Abdullah Kurdi, for the deaths, accusing him of organizing the trip.
The court initially sentenced the smugglers to five years in prison each, but then reduced the term to four years and two months because of the defendants’ good behavior during the trial and other legal reductions. The pair can appeal their conviction.