|Captain Francesco Schettino. Image: The Independent|
The court case surrounding the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster returned to court in Italy on Monday, with a long series of indictment hearings against six suspects including Captain Francesco Schettino.
With Captain Francesco Schettino expected to attend, the whereabouts of Indonesian helmsman Jacob Rusli Bin, suspected of contributing to the tragedy by misunderstanding a command moments before the crash are not known, but he has been assigned a lawyer and the accusations against him will be heard in absentia, AFP reported.
Roberto Ferrarini, the head of Costa Cruises’ crisis unit, also expected to attend is suspected of delaying rescue operations which prosecutors say was the main cause of loss of life.
The court has scheduled 40 pre trial hearings, expected to last into July, before it will rule on whether a trial should go ahead and when it will take place.
Survivors are allowed to attend the hearings, where prosecutors and defence lawyers will tackle some of the key issues in the expected trial.
The case is being heard in Grosseto, the city nearest to the site of the tragedy where the Costa Concordia still lies on her side as the unprecedented salvage operation prepares to right her, refloat her and tow her away.
Thirty lawyers working for survivors have said they will issue a joint plea on Monday for prosecutors to investigate the boards of Costa Cruises and Carnival, with Cesare Bulgheroni, one of the lawyers taking part in the protest saying, "The idea is that prosecutors in Grosseto should widen their investigation to the companies for their role in the crimes that the current suspects are accused of".
Bulgheroni alleged that the company had poorly-trained personnel on board and delayed the evacuation of the ship, all accusations that have been denied by Costa Cruises.
In the meantime, Codacons, a consumer association which is suing Costa Cruises on behalf of some survivors, has published a report that showed key equipment on board apparently malfunctioned including sealed doors, with Bruno Neri, a professor called by Codacons to carry out the technical analysis, saying, "Schettino has been turned into a scapegoat.”