Appeals verdict due for Costa Concordia shipwreck captain Schettino

Italian judges were expected Tuesday to deliver a second verdict against Francesco Schettino, the former captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner which ran aground three years ago, causing 32 deaths.

In a first instance ruling in February 2015, Schettino was sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment for manslaughter, causing multiple injuries, abandoning ship and other serious crimes. The Florence Court of Appeal is due to review that judgement.

The verdict was expected to be read out "not earlier than 6 pm (1600 GMT)" and, as requested by the defence, cameras would not be allowed in the room, court president Grazia D'Onofrio said before deliberations, as quoted by the Adnkronos news agency.

Schettino, who has not attended any hearings since the appeals trial started on April 28, was following proceedings from his home near Naples, his lawyers said.

The prosecution has asked for his sentence to be stiffened to 27 years, while the defence has called for an acquittal, arguing that there is no proof of guilt and that the 55-year-old has been made into a scapegoat.

On January 13, 2012, under Schettino's command, the Concordia left its planned route and was steered close to the Italian island of Giglio, where it hit rocks and partially capsized. There were 4,229 people on board.

Massimiliano Gabrielli, a member of the Justice for the Concordia group of lawyers, which represents victims of the accident as plaintiffs, told dpa that the captain was "seriously and undeniably" at fault and deserved the jail term handed to him last year.

But Gabrielli also argued that Schettino had been unfairly singled out for blame, as other crew members and ship owners Costa Crociere, who were investigated but not sent to trial, were treated leniently.

Four Concordia crew members and a Costa Crociere manager were let free in 2013, after negotiating plea bargain agreements carrying suspended jail terms of 18 to 34 months. In a separate deal, Costa Crociere paid a 1-million-euro (1.11-million-dollar) fine.

Schettino's appeal trial has been remarkably quick, considering Italy's notoriously slow justice system. If confirmed guilty, he may not go to prison yet because there is a second round of appeals, and sentences are normally not executed until a final verdict.

According to Gabrielli, if the case ends up before the Court of Cassation in Rome - the top appeals body in the country - it may take another year to put an end to legal proceedings against the Concordia skipper.

Last update: Tue, 31/05/2016 - 18:20
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