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Costa Concordia captain seeks bargain plea as trial resumes

The trial of Francesco Schettino, the captain of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner, has resumed in Italy one week after its adjournment. He faces manslaughter charges for the 2012 crash that killed 32 people.

Captain Francesco Schettino appeared in court in Grosseto, Italy on Wednesday to once again face charges of multiple manslaughter, causing environmental damage and abandoning the Costa Concordia cruise liner.

The charges carry up to 20 years in prison, although the 52-year-old's lawyers have said they will seek a sentence of three years and five months in prison in exchange for a guilty plea.

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Costa Concordia captain's trial resumes

Schettino's trial initially began on Tuesday but was immediately suspended due to a national lawyers' strike in Italy.

On January 13, 2012 the Costa Concordia crashed into rocks off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, with 4,229 passengers and crew from 70 countries on board.

Once the ship capsized, a delayed and panicked night-time evacuation was hampered by the fact that some lifeboats could not be deployed. More than a year after the crash, the ship still lies on its side, partially submerged, off the coast of the island.

Out of the 32 people killed during the crash, two of the bodies were never recovered.

'Captain Coward'

Nicknamed "Captain Coward," Schettino has been widely vilified in the Italian press for reportedly abandoning the ship while passengers remained trapped on board. He was accused of causing the ship to crash while performing a maneuver to "salute" the island to show off to a female guest.

Schettino has rejected the claims, however, describing himself as an innocent scapegoat.

His defense team, Domenico and Francesco Pepe, have said they plan to show that "no single person was responsible" for the disaster and that the blame should be more evenly shared with other crew members as well as the ships' parent company, Costa Crociere.

They have called for 100 witnesses and say they plan to investigate Costa Crociere management, materials used to build the ship, and the apparent malfunction of emergency doors and back-up generators.

In April, Costa Crociere, a unit of the US-based Carnival Corporation, admitted limited responsibility as the captain's employer and in a controversial decision, an Italian judge ordered to pay a one million euro ($1.3 million) fine to avoid potential criminal charges.

Five other defendants, including four crew members and a Costa manager, successfully sought plea bargains with short prison sentences, which are to be ruled on in a separate hearing on July 20.

ccp/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)

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