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BRUSSELS—A local court on Jan. 19 convicted 18 people who were involved from Belgium in the 2019 deaths of 39 people from Vietnam whose bodies were found in the back of a container truck in southeastern England.

The Bruges correctional court found what it called a Vietnamese ringleader in Belgium guilty and imposed a 15-year jail term. Others were given one- to 10-year sentences while five were found not guilty. It was still unclear if they would appeal the sentence.

Over a year ago, a British court had already found a Romanian mechanic and Northern Irish truck driver guilty of the deaths of the Vietnamese nationals, who were discovered dead in the English town of Grays.

The victims, between the ages of 15 and 44, were found on Oct. 23, 2019, inside a refrigerated container that had arrived by ferry from Belgium. The migrants came from impoverished villages and had paid people-smugglers thousands of dollars to take them on risky journeys to what they hoped would be better lives abroad. (AP)