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Cruise captain bids for leniency

18 July 2013, 09:55

Grosseto - The captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship requested a plea bargain deal at his trial in Italy on Wednesday over a shipwreck that claimed 32 lives.

Francesco Schettino's lawyers asked that their client serve three years and five months in prison in exchange for admitting responsibility for the disaster.

Dubbed "Italy's most hated man" by the tabloids, Schettino is accused of multiple manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing environmental damage off the island of Giglio.

The 52-year-old faces up to 20 years in prison.

The plea bargain is seen as unlikely to be accepted since a previous request has already been turned down by a judge for preliminary investigations.

Chief prosecutor Francesco Verusio brushed off the request and told reporters there was "no doubt" of Schettino's guilt and the only question was "how long a sentence he will get".

Survivors of the January 2012 tragedy said they were still haunted by the memories of that night and wanted the trial to finally shed light on what exactly went wrong.

The trial began last week but was immediately postponed after Schettino's defenders adhered to a national lawyers' strike and could last for months.

The 290m Costa Concordia crashed into rocks just off Giglio on the night of 13 January 2012 with 4 229 people from 70 countries on board.

Massimiliano Gabrielli, a lawyer for some survivors who are suing for compensation, accused Costa of "choosing to save the ship instead of saving people".

He said the trial could last more than a year, while prosecutors said it should be completed by early 2014.

Five other people have been charged over the disaster, including the ship's Indonesian helmsman and the head of Costa Crociere's crisis unit.

The ship still lies beached on its side, its rusting frame dwarfed by blue cranes and a floating hotel for divers and salvage workers.

The vessel is due to be righted in September but officials are concerned that its submerged side may be more damaged than previously thought.



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