Francesco Schettino: Costa Concordia cruise ship captain goes on trial
Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which ran aground off Italy last year, is set to go on trial.
Francesco Schettino, 52, faces charges of multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship.
Thirty-two people died when the ship hit a rock off the Tuscan island of Giglio in January 2012 and then tipped onto its side.
A nationwide strike by Italian lawyers is expected to affect the start of the trial, due later on Tuesday.
Francesco Schettino has been accused of steering the luxury liner too fast and too close to the shore, and of leaving the ship before all of the 4,229 passengers were taken off.
He was allegedly performing a risky night-time sail-past salute to people on the tiny island of Giglio.
The ship was holed by rocks on the left-hand side causing it to list, as passengers dined on the first night of the cruise.
A chaotic and disorganized evacuation ensued. By the time the order to evacuate came, the Costa Concordia was listing so far to one side that many lifeboats could not be used.
The liner is still lying on its side, half-submerged, off Giglio. Two people are still listed as missing.
Captain Francesco Schettino denies the charges, and his defense is expected to argue that no single person was to blame for the accident.
He claims his manoeuvring of the ship closer to shore saved lives.
Francesco Schettino is expected in court in Grosseto, a city 90 miles north-west of Rome which is nearest to the site of the wreck.
However, the trial could be delayed by a week if his lawyers observe the strike, scheduled to start on Tuesday.
In addition to the hundreds of survivors seeking compensation, the local authorities in Giglio are hoping for at least 80 million euros ($105 million) to make up for alleged lost revenue and the eyesore that has been on its shoreline.
Up to 430 witnesses and 250 plaintiffs could be called during Francesco Schettino’s trial, AFP news agency reports.
Francesco Schettino’s lawyers say he faces a maximum 20 years in jail if found guilty.
The Costa Concordia still lies partially submerged off the coast of Giglio while salvage crews work to refloat it.