Two alleged smugglers on trial over Alan Kurdi’s death

Suspected traffickers plead not guilty and instead blame father of drowned three-year-old as trial starts in Turkey.

Alan Kurdi, Galib Kurdi
The Kurdi family's tragic story showed the plight of Syrian refugees and caught the world's attention [Tima Kurdi /The Canadian Press via AP]

Two alleged people-smugglers have gone on trial in Turkey, accused of causing the death of three-year-old Syrian Alan Kurdi and four other people.

The image of Kurdi, drowned off one of Turkey’s most popular holiday resorts in September, sparked a global outpouring of sadness and anger, putting a human face on the dangers faced by tens of thousands of refugees who risk their lives to seek safety in Europe.

READ MORE: NATO sends ships to Aegean to combat refugee crisis 

The defendants at the trial – Syrian nationals Muwafaka Alabash and Asem Alfrhad – denied any responsibility in the refugees’ deaths in their opening hearing on Thursday, the private Turkish Dogan news agency reported.

Instead, they blamed Alan’s father Abdullah Kurdi for the deaths, accusing him of organising the trip and of sailing the boat.

The defendants have been charged with human smuggling and causing the deaths of five people “through deliberate negligence”. They face up to 35 years in prison each if convicted.

Alan’s brother, Galip and mother, Rihan, were among the five victims who drowned when their boat went down in the ill-fated journey from Bodrum to the Greek island of Kos. Abdullah Kurdi has since returned to Syria.

Dangerous crossing

Despite the risks, refugees continue to take the treacherous journey across the Aegean.

READ MORE: More than 400 refugees die on their way to Europe in 2016 

The International Organization for Migration says at least 409 refugees have died on that route so far this year.

Turkish officials say authorities in 2015 detained more than 4,400 smugglers who organise the often-dangerous crossings in frail boats.

Source: News Agencies