A court in Middelburg has found two Ukrainian men guilty of trying to smuggle 11 Albanians to the UK and sentenced them to three years in jail.
However, the judges also found that a court in Breda was not wrong to release them from pre-trial detention in March so that they could return to fight on the front lines in Ukraine – which meant the suspects were charged in absentia.
In the March hearing, the Breda court found that if legal order has been ‘seriously disrupted’ and the suspect has ‘special, serious circumstances’, pre-trial detention can be suspended. In view of the war in Ukraine and the Ukrainian government’s appeal for citizens to defend its country, the suspects were released to fight.
However, the two men of 27 and 29, from Lutsk in north Western Ukraine, have now been found guilty of putting the lives of a group of Albanians at risk and given a jail sentence.
They had been discovered sailing a yacht with 11 visa-less Albanian people on board in the night of 24th to 25th September 2021, and then been detained in custody for six months.
The court in Middelburg found them guilty of abusing Albanians in a vulnerable position and putting their lives at risk, since the boat had no life saving equipment or the ability to signal distress, while sailing a route through a busy shipping lane with strong currents.
The men, who have not publicly been named, are understood to be fighting in Ukraine and the Dutch court said it does not expect that ‘in the short term’ they will be found to serve their sentence. Earlier this year, a court spokeswoman told the NOS that they would be arrested if they tried to enter the Netherlands again.
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