Prosecutors Call for Ferry Captain's Death

Lee Joon-seok 'supplied the cause,' they say
By Shelley Hazen,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2014 9:46 AM CDT
Prosecutors Call for Ferry Captain's Death
Lee Joon-seok, the captain of the sunken South Korean ferry Sewol, arrives at Gwangju District Court in Gwangju, South Korea, on June 10, 2014.   (AP Photo/Yonhap, Hyung Min-woo)

Prosecutors want the captain of a South Korean ferry that sank in April and killed 300 people, mostly schoolchildren, put to death. Prosecutors concluded their case today against Lee Joon-seok by saying he "supplied the cause" that sunk the Sewol, and therefore "has the heaviest responsibility for the accident," Reuters reports. Lee and three senior crew members were charged with "homicide through willful negligence" in May; 11 other crew members face lesser charges, reports AFP. Prosecutors are calling only for Lee's execution in a country that hasn't put anyone to death since 1997, when 23 people were hanged, adds the BBC. There are 58 people on death row there.

Prosecutors say Lee and his crew told passengers "to stay in their cabins" as the ship sunk, the AP reports. The crew members were among the first to board rescue boats and have said while on trial they considered it the Coast Guard's duty to get passengers off the boat, Reuters adds. Lee has blamed the ferry's owners for its sinking, but he admits a new crew member was steering the ship. "I will repent until the day I die and ask for the victims' families' forgiveness. I swear with my hand over my heart, I did not intend to kill anyone. I never even thought of such a thing," he told the court. A verdict is expected in November. The owner of the company that operated the ferry—and whose employees are still on trial—was found dead in July. (More South Korea stories.)

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