Murder trial opens for S Korea ferry captain, crew

2014-06-10 07:38
Sewol captain Lee Joon-Seok. (File, AP)

Sewol captain Lee Joon-Seok. (File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

  • South Korea
    Accessible yet packed with information, South Korea will appeal to geography students and casual... Now R567.00
    buy now
Seoul - 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 ton Sewol ferry while hundreds of passengers were still trapped inside the heavily-listing ferry before it capsized.

The Sewol was carrying 476 passengers, including 325 students on a school trip, when it sank off the southwest coast on 16 April.

So far 292 have been confirmed dead, with 12 still unaccounted for as divers continue to search the submerged vessel for remaining bodies.

‘Tantamount to murder’

The tragedy stunned South Korea, knocking the entire country off its stride and unleashing a wave of public anger, as it emerged that incompetence, corruption and greed had all contributed to the scale of the disaster.

Much of that anger has focused on Lee and his crew, especially after the coastguard released a video showing the captain, dressed in a sweater and underwear, scrambling to safety from the sinking ferry.

South Korean media coverage of their arrest and arraignment was often coloured by a presumption of guilt, and just weeks after the disaster President Park Geun-Hye stated that the crew's actions had been "tantamount to murder".

In such a heated atmosphere, with public calls for severe punishment, there are concerns that Lee and the other defendants will be unable to receive a fair trial in the district court in the south-western city of Gwangju.

"It will be a very difficult case and the court will be under a lot of pressure," said Jason Ha, a senior attorney with a leading law firm in Seoul.

"Public emotion is still running very high and, with the police still searching for the absconding ferry owner, the captain and crew are the target of all that anger," Ha said.

Dozens of parents of the high-school victims travelled to Gwangju on three buses to attend the trial, both inside and outside the court.

‘Independent judges’

The defendants have reportedly had enormous difficulty in securing private legal representation, with few lawyers willing to take on the defence in such an emotive case.

Six public defenders have been appointed to the defence team. District court cases of this nature are usually heard by a three-judge bench.

"We don't have a jury system here, and these are professional, independent judges who hopefully should be able to ignore the clamour outside," Ha said.

Although the captain and three crew could, if convicted, be handed the death penalty, it is extremely unlikely it would be carried out.

A moratorium has been in place in South Korea since the last execution took place in late 1997. Currently, there are some 60 people on death row.

Tuesday's preliminary hearing was due to begin at 0500 GMT, and was mainly expected to deal with procedural issues.

A nationwide manhunt is still underway for Yoo Byung-Eun, the fugitive patriarch of the family behind Chonghaejin Marine Co - the company that owned and operated the Sewol.

Yoo is wanted for questioning on possible charges of embezzlement and criminal negligence, as prosecutors investigate the extent to which the Sewol disaster was caused by a lack of safety standards and regulatory violations.

Prosecutors have offered a $500 000 cash reward for information leading to Yoo's arrest.

Read more on:    south korea  |  ferry disaster
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Monday Cape Town - 16:33 PM
    Road name: M5 Southbound
    SLOW TRAFFIC between Berkey Road and the Kromboom Road exit
  • Monday Bellville - 16:32 PM
    Road name: N1 Outbound
    DELAYS between Plattekloof Road and the Durban Road exit
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2 TV Series for R250

Get 2 TV Series box sets for R250 and save up to R148! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Canon EOS 600D

The Canon EOS 600D Digital Camera puts the widely respected...

From R5389.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is a strong emphasis on relationships. Obsession, emotional disputes, retaliation or competitive actions are highlighted....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.