Italy's highest court has upheld a guilty sentence against the captain blamed for the deadly 2012 sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship. Over 30 people died in the shipwreck.
Francesco Schettino was found guilty of manslaughter, causing multiple injuries, abandoning ship and a number of other serious crimes. Italy's Court of Cassation confirmed and finalized verdicts issued earlier by a first instance court in 2015 as well, as by a lower appeals court a year later.
As jail terms in Italy are not usually executed until all appeals are exhausted, 56-year-old Schettino remained out of prison until now. According to his lawyer, Saverio Senese, Schettino handed himself in to the Rebibbia prison in Rome after the verdict was handed down.
Although the judgement is final and legally binding, Senese said he would try to challenge it before the European Court of Human Rights.
"We will wait and read the motivations of the ruling," the lawyer said.
German lawyer Hans Reinhard, who represented about 30 survivors and victims' relatives in a number of damages lawsuits, said that "the victims finally want closure."
"Nobody will ever forget this case. The name Schettino is linked to the picture of the sinking ship," Reinhard told the German DPA news agency.
On January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia cruise ship hit rocks and partially capsized near the Italian island of Giglio. Of the 4,229 people on board, 32 died, including 12 German passengers. Two of the bodies were never found.
Schettino was one of the first to leave the distressed vessel even though it is expected for the captain to be the last person to leave a boat. This led to him being referred to as "Captain Coward" by the media. Schettino would later claim that he had merely fallen off the cruise ship and onto a life boat. In the final verdict, Schettino's breaking of the ancient seafarer's code to abandon ship last only earned him one year in prison.
During his initial trial, however, Schettino was accused of steering the ship too close to the Tuscan island of Giglio while entertaining a female friend. Schettino's lawyers meanwhile insisted that the accident and its deadly consequences were primarily due to organizational failings as well as mechanical errors by the ship's owner, Costa Crociere.
"My only regret is having had under my command officers who were not up to scratch," he said earlier in his trial, having apologized for his part in the tragedy.
There still are a number of civil cases against Schettino, which will continue to be heard in court.
ss/kms (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)