Ferry captain gets 36 years in prison
SEOUL (AP):A South Korean ferry captain was sentenced yesterday to 36 years in prison for negligence and abandoning passengers when his ship sank earlier this year, but the court acquitted him of homicide, concluding there was no proof he knew his actions would cause the more than 300 deaths that shocked and outraged the country.
The highly anticipated verdict came on the same day searches were called off for the final nine victims and amid continuing grief and finger-pointing over one of the worst disasters in South Korean history. Victims' relatives immediately criticised the sentences for Captain Lee Joon-seok and other crew members as too lenient, with some weeping and shouting during the court proceedings.
"Do you know how many children are dead?" one relative said, according to Kook Joung-don, a lawyer for the relatives.
The Gwangju District Court in southern South Korea also concluded that Lee had issued an evacuation order and had left the ship after rescue boats arrived on the scene, the court said in a statement.
Most of the ferry passengers were teenage students taking a school trip, and many student survivors have said they were repeatedly ordered over a loudspeaker to stay on the sinking ship and that they didn't remember any evacuation order being given before they helped each other flee the vessel.