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4 men in court in Hungary over migrant truck deaths

4 men in court in Hungary over migrant truck deaths
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Police stand near a truck that stands on the shoulder of the highway A4 near Parndorf south of Vienna, Austria, Thursday, Aug 27, 2015. (AP / Ronald Zak)

Published Saturday, August 29, 2015 9:57AM EDT

KECSKEMET, Hungary -- Four men accused of involvement in the trafficking of 71 migrants found dead in a truck in Austria were brought before a Hungarian court on Saturday as prosecutors sought to keep them in custody.

The refrigerated truck with the dead migrants was found Thursday in the safety lane of the main Budapest-to-Vienna highway. The suspects, three Bulgarians and one Afghan, were detained in Hungary later that day.

The case is being heard in Kecskemet, in central Hungary, because the truck set off from the city before picking up the migrants near the country s southern border with Serbia, Gabor Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bacs-Kiskun county chief prosecution office, told reporters outside the courthouse.

Schmidt said Hungarian authorities are investigating the suspects involvement in the human trafficking aspects of the case, while their suspected connection to the deaths of the migrants is being investigated by Austrian authorities.

Prosecutors were asking the court in Kecskemet at a closed-door hearing to order the suspects preliminary arrest on suspicion of qualified human smuggling, which carries a sentence of between two and 16 years in prison.

The initial detention period would be up to 30 days, which could be extended by a judge for up to one year, Schmidt said.

The four handcuffed men were taken into the court building through a side entrance.

No official information was released by authorities other than their nationalities.

It wasn t clear how long the bodies had been inside the truck, but police believe the migrants may already have been dead by the time the truck crossed into Austria overnight Wednesday. Austrian officials believe they suffocated.

Autopsies were being conducted, with results expected in several days.

Investigators found a Syrian travel document, indicating that at least some of the dead were refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
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