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Costa Concordia disaster: Italian court upholds captain's conviction

The captain of the ill-fated Costa Concordia cruise liner has had his 16-year prison sentence over the 2012 disaster upheld. But he is unlikely to go to jail until a lengthy appeals process ends.

After over eight hours of closed-door hearings, the Florence Court of Appeal upheld the jail term for Francesco Schettino handed down in February 2015.

Under Schettino's command, the Concordia left its planned route on January 13, 2012, and was steered close to the Italian island of Giglio, where it hit rocks and partially capsized. More than 4,200 people were on board. Thirty-two people died, and the bodies of two of the victims were never found.

Schettino was not in court when the verdict was read out by Judge Grazia D'Onofrio on Tuesday evening.

Likely appeal pending

Schettino will not be jailed immediately, pending a possible further

appeal

to a top appeals body, the Court of Cassation.

Until that court closes the legal case - which could take another year or more - Schettino is unlikely to go to jail, as jail sentences are normally not executed before a final judgment is delivered.

Costa Concordia

Costa Concordia

The original sentence

Schettino was sentenced

in February 2015 to 16 years and one month in prison, after a judge ruled that his recklessness was to blame for the accident. He was found guilty of manslaughter, causing multiple injuries, abandoning ship and other serious crimes.

In the appeals trial that started on April 28, the prosecution asked for the jail sentence to be extended to 27 years. Massimiliano Gabrielli, a lawyer representing victims of the accident as plaintiffs, said the captain was "seriously and undeniably" at fault and deserved the jail term handed to him last year.

Watch video 01:51

Raising the Costa Concordia

Pleading shared guilt

The defense called for the captain's acquittal, arguing the accident was primarily due to organizational failings for which the ship's owner, Costa Crociere, its Indonesian helmsman and the Italian coastguard should have shared the blame.

Costa Crociere avoided criminal charges by accepting partial responsibility and agreeing to pay a one million euro ($1.2 million) fine.

jbh/jr (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)

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