26-year jail term sought for Concordia captain

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Prosecutors are seeking 26 years in prison for Francesco Schettino, the former captain of the Costa Concordia. Photo: AFP
12:49 CET+01:00
UPDATED: Italian prosecutors called on Monday for Francesco Schettino, the captain of the doomed Costa Concordia, to serve 26 years and three months in jail for the 2012 shipwreck which left 32 people dead.

"God have pity on Schettino, because we cannot have any," prosecutor Stefano Pizza said in his summing up speech, which accused the man dubbed "Captain Coward" by the media of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.

Co-prosecutor Maria Navarro told the trial in Grosseto, Tuscany, that it was "not an exaggerated sentence" for a man who "has lied to everyone, to the press, to the court, to the maritime authorities".

"He has never accepted responsibility (and) no elements have emerged in his favour" since his trial began in July 2013, she said.

Schettino, 54, is accused of delaying sounding the alarm or calling for help after hitting rocks off the Italian island of Giglio on January 13th 2012, during a risky drive-by manoeuvre, as well as abandoning ship before many of the passengers had been rescued.

He claims he managed to save lives by delaying the evacuation, and blames his crew for failing to alert him to the rocks.

The vast cruise liner, carrying 4,229 people from more than 70 countries, hit the rocks as many were sitting down to dinner, before listing and rolling over onto its side.

The delayed evacuation made it impossible to launch many of the lifeboats on one side, forcing people to throw themselves into the sea to escape.

Navarro called for Schettino to serve 14 years behind bars for multiple manslaughter, nine years for causing a shipwreck, three years for abandoning ship and three months for failing to contact the authorities when the accident happened.

Schettino's lawyer Domenico Pepe said he hoped the court would remember "we're talking about manslaughter, not murder or a massacre," while co-defence lawyer Donato Laino slammed the prosecution's request as "almost a life sentence".

'Rash idiot'

Pizza described the captain, who was not present in court, as a "rash idiot," a mix of "rash optimist and capable idiot... who is so full of himself he causes danger and harm by over-estimating his abilities."

As part of the prosecution's three-day closing statement, the court was shown an underwater video shot by a diver recovery team when they found the body of a five-year old Italian girl, Dayana Arlotti, who was discovered clasped in the arms of her father in a submerged part of the ship.

Schettino, who has admitted to sailing the ship close to shore to show off, says he delayed calling for help because he knew the wind would guide the vessel towards land.

He also insists he did not flee the ship but rather fell off when it tilted, and was thrown into a lifeboat which carried him ashore.

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He claims he begged the lifeboat to turn around, but his request was refused. He has also said the ship's owner Costa Crociere, Europe's biggest cruise operator, told him by telephone not to return to the stricken liner.

In January an official coordinating the rescue from the stricken liner told the court Schettino twice refused to be taken back on board, and instead sat huddled on an outcrop near the shore.

In a widely-quoted phone call, a coast guard official is heard upbraiding Schettino and ordering him to "get back on board, for fuck's sake" -- an order the former captain refused point blank to follow.

A verdict is expected by the middle of February.

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