July 9, 2013 - 10:49 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which ran aground off Italy, is due to go on trial on Tuesday, July 9, BBC News reports.
Capt 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.
The start of the trial is threatened by a scheduled national strike by lawyers.
Capt Schettino has been accused of leaving the luxury liner before all of the 4,229 passengers were taken off, and steering the ship too fast and too close to the shore.
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 the ship 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 ship was listing so far to one side that many lifeboats could not be used.
Capt Schettino denies the charges, and his defense is expected to argue that no single person was to blame for the accident.
He claims his maneuvering of the ship closer to shore saved lives.
Schettino is expected in court on Tuesday in Grosseto, a city 90 miles (145km) 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 a national strike scheduled to start on Tuesday.
Four other crew members and the head of the crisis unit of Costa Cruises have entered plea bargains which will be ruled on in a separate hearing later this month.
In addition to the hundreds of survivors seeking compensation, the local authorities in Giglio are hoping for at least 80m euros ($105m) to make up for alleged lost revenue and the eyesore that has been on its shoreline for more than a year.
Up to 430 witnesses and 250 plaintiffs could be called during Capt Schettino's trial.
His 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.