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Murder trial opens for South Korea ferry captain and crew

Published on Jun 10, 2014 11:38 AM
Lee Joon Seok, captain of South Korean ferry Sewol which sank at sea off Jindo, walks out of court after an investigation in Mokpo on April 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - With South Korean divers still searching for victims of April's ferry disaster, the murder trial of the captain and crew was set to open on Tuesday in a heated atmosphere that has raised concerns about a fair hearing.

Captain Lee Joon-Seok and three crew members are accused of "homicide through wilful negligence" - a charge that falls between first-degree murder and manslaughter, but still carries the death penalty.

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

The bulk of the charges arise from the fact that Captain Lee and the others chose to escape the 6,825 Sewol ferry while hundreds of passengers were still trapped inside the heavily-listing ferry before it capsized.

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