The manslaughter trial of the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that capsized off Italy's coast last year, killing 32 people, began Tuesday but was immediately suspended because of a lawyers' strike.
Capt. Francesco Schettino attended the hearing in the Tuscan town of Grosseto wearing a blue suit and sunglasses, declining to answer questions from a scrum of reporters, according to The Maritime Executive.
The trial was postponed until July 17 because the lawyers in the case were taking part in a nationwide strike protesting measures to streamline civil trials.
The giant Concordia flipped on its side outside the Tuscan port of Giglio in January 2012 after it struck rocks during a maneuver that brought it too close to shore. Schettino, who left the ship before all of its crew and passengers had been rescued, faces charges that include multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship. He argues that he managed to prevent a worse disaster by steering the vessel into shallow waters after the impact to help the rescue operation.
The Concordia accident triggered a nighttime evacuation of more than 4,000 passengers and crew from the 951-foot ship, which still rests on a rock shelf outside Giglio.
If found guilty, Schettino could face up to 20 years in jail, a penalty his lawyer Domenico Pepe said was disproportionate, The Maritime Executive reported.
"The captain did not abandon the ship. He fell off of it" as the cruise liner tilted, Pepe told reporters after the hearing.
Daniele Bocciolini, a lawyer representing victims, told reporters Tuesday that he hopes investigations will show the trial should be widened to include everyone he believes is responsible for the accident.