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South Korea ferry crew go on trial

June 10, 2014 6:46 pm

Fifteen South Korean crew members have gone on trial over the deaths of at least 292 people, most of them school pupils, in a ferry disaster in April.

Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, and three others face the most serious charge of “homicide through wilful negligence”.

His lawyer said the captain had no power to stop the firm from overloading the ferry, and insisted he had not meant to cause the accident.

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Many relatives of the victims were in court to see the opening of the trial.

The case has received feverish media coverage, leaving commentators suggesting that the defendants will struggle to get a fair trial.

Hahn Jee-hyung, a judge who acts as a spokesman for the court, pleaded with the public not to take their frustrations out on the defence lawyers.

“The state-appointed lawyers have taken on the case out of public interest and not of their own will,” Hahn told reporters.

The trial will focus on Capt Lee and his crew’s escape from the sinking ferry while hundreds of passengers remained trapped inside.

If convicted, Capt Lee and three crew members could be handed the death penalty, but observers say it is extremely unlikely it would be carried out.

Eleven other crew are being tried on lesser charges of criminal negligence and maritime law violations.

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