South Korea’s appeals court found the captain of the Sewol ferry that sank in April last year killing 304 people guilty of homicide and sentenced him to life in prison, Bloomberg reports.
Back in November, the Gwangju District Court dismissed homicide charges against the 69-year-old Lee Joon-seok, but found him guilty of gross negligence and sentenced him to 36 years in prison.
Gwangju High Court overruled the lower court’s decision to acquit Lee from homicide charges. The court also rejected prosecution’s demands for a death penalty.
The Sewol captain and three of his crew members were first put on homicide trial in 2014 as they were the first to abandon the ferry when it listed and started to sink, failing to rescue hundreds of passengers on board.
The disaster claimed lives of 250 high school students who were on a school trip. The students were told to remain in their cabins while the ship’s crew scrambled to safety.
An investigation into the incident found that several factors had led to the sinking of the ferry, including an illegal remodelling of the ferry to increase the cargo load, cargo overloading, and the steersman’s poor helmsmanship.
Commenting on the lower court’s ruling at the time, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) described the 36-year sentence handed down to Lee as ”excessive and unjust,” saying that the judgement was based ”more on emotion and the need to find someone to blame than justice.”
World Maritime News Staff