Costa Concordia captain's 16-year conviction confirmed on appeal

Former captain Francesco Schettino had his 16-year conviction linked to the deadly Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster upheld in an appeal ruling, Italian news agency ANSA reported on Tuesday.

After more than eight hours of closed-door deliberations, the Florence Court of Appeal confirmed a first instance judgement from February 2015, in which Schettino was found guilty of manslaughter, causing multiple injuries, abandoning ship and other serious crimes.

As is customary in Italy, judges were due to explain their verdict in writing at a later stage. Normally these documents take months to be published.

In appeal pleas, the prosecution had asked for the jail sentence to be extended to 27 years, while the defence had called for the captain's acquittal, arguing that there was no proof of guilt and that the 55-year-old had 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.

The defendant, who has not attended any hearings since the appeals trial started on April 28, waited for the verdict from his home near Naples. He may challenge it a second time, before a top appeals body, the Court of Cassation.

Until the Cassation closes the legal case - which make take at least another year - Schettino is not expected to go to jail, because in Italy jail sentences are normally not executed until a final judgement is delivered.

Before Tuesday's verdict, Massimiliano Gabrielli, a lawyer representing 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.

Gabrielli, who is a member of the Justice for the Concordia lawyers' group, also argued that other crew members and ship owners Costa Crociere, who were investigated but not sent to trial, were treated too 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.

Last update: Tue, 31/05/2016 - 21:58

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