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Costa Concordia captain asks for plea bargain deal at trial

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The captain of a cruise ship that ran aground off the Italian coast, claiming the lives of 32 people, has asked for a plea bargain deal at his trial over the disaster, reported Sky News.

Lawyers for Francesco Schettino, who was in charge of the Costa Concordia liner when it crashed into rocks off the island of Giglio last year, said their client was ready to plead guilty in exchange for a prison sentence of three years and five months.

But the defence also said it held out little hope that the judge would allow such a deal as the trial resumed in Grosseto, the town closest to where the shipwreck happened, after a week long suspension because of a lawyers' strike.

The captain, the only defendant, risks up to 20 years if found guilty in a full trial on charges of manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing the shipwreck that claimed 32 lives.

The request was made after an earlier plea bargain bid was thrown out by the judge in charge of preliminary investigations into what happened.

Schettino, 52, is accused of abandoning ship before all crew and passengers had been rescued.

His lawyers argue that he prevented an even worse disaster by steering the 290 metre (950 foot) vessel into shallow waters
after the impact and that he was thrown overboard due to the angle of the leaning ship.

The trial began on July 9 but was immediately suspended because lawyers involved were taking part in a nationwide strike against measures to streamline civil trials. The hearing is expected to last for more than a year.

Lawyers for survivors and relatives of the victims attended the trial as it resumed on Wednesday.

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