People smuggler trial continues

People smuggler trial continues
Photo © APA
A trial of eight men accused of smuggling asylum seekers from Asia continued into its 23rd day at the Regional Court in Wiener Neustadt on Monday.

Among the group are former refugees and asylum seeker activists.

The court heard recordings of phone tappings and a 39 year-old textile worker from Pakistan accused of leading the smuggling "cell" was interviewed again.

According to the Pakistani's defense counsel, Clemens Breitlahner, evidence of his client helping compatriots with money as they transited Austrian territory amounts to "exactly nothing."

The accused did not deny he had helped his countrymen travel through Austria, telling the court he had "helped them out of compassion."

Explaining his frequent contact with Asians staying in Greece, the accused told the court, "From my village alone, 3,000 people have come to Europe, many of whom are still in Greece.  Because I can communicate in English, I have helped them, out of humanity. Yes, I received 5, 10, 15 €. But I have not made a 'business' from this. I have not made a profit. Often I pay for tickets out of my own pocket. I did not know this was smuggling."

The phone recordings played in court on Monday had not been heard until now.

Conversations frequently used the word "send", in phrases such as "I'll send you a guy."

Counsel for the defense, Josef Phillip Bischof, was critical.

"The police equated the word "send" with people smuggling."

The wiretapped conversations of the alleged mastermind – known as Chick – were about purchasing tickets.

Interrogations of the remaining defendants also failed to contribute anything significant to the case.

Some admitted to helping compatriots when entering into or moving through Austria, but said they would have done so either for free or for tips.

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