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|Tuesday, March 06, 2001, updated at 09:12(GMT+8)|
Ninth on Trial in Dutch Court for Murder and Illegal ImmigrationSix Dutchmen and three Turks faced charges of manslaughter and human trafficking Monday in an incident that ended with 58 Chinese persons dying of suffocation in an air-tight truck container traveling from Belgium to Britain.
The trial is being conducted by three judges without a jury in Rotterdam.
Dutch prosecutors said in their opening remarks that they would trace the human trafficking activities of the gang to December 1997, when it smuggled another immigrant group from the Netherlands to Belgium and then across the English Channel to Britain.
The gang repeated its operation in April 2000, three months before the group of Chinese immigrants died in the back of a refrigeration truck on a ferry from Zeebrugge, Belgium, to Dover, Britain.
At least 130 illegal migrants were involved in the two operations, according to prosecutors.
In addition to the charges of manslaughter, some of the nine defendants will face additional charges of trafficking in humans, forgery and membership in a criminal organization. They could face sentences of up to 30 years in prison if found guilty.
On a separate trial in Dover, Britain, Perry Wacker, the driver of the truck, was on trial for the deaths of 58 Chinese.
During the truck's voyage across the English Channel on a ferry in June last year, Wacker closed a vent in the refrigeration container to muffle any noise while, he went to an upper deck for a meal and a movie.
Customs inspectors at Dover found the bodies of 58 Chinese who had died of suffocation. Two survived the tragedy were not expected to be called to the stand.
The Dutch authorities have admitted that their country has become an important transit point for illegal immigration operations, especially through its sea port in Rotterdam.
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