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Trial of S Korea ferry captain, crew to begin Tuesday

As rescue operations continue off the coast of South Korea to find the remaining passengers on board the Sewol ferry that sank in April, the trial for the captain and his crew members is set to begin on Tuesday.

SEOUL: As rescue operations continue off the coast of South Korea to find the remaining passengers on board the Sewol ferry that sank in April, the trial for the captain and his crew members is set to begin on Tuesday.

Four of them, including the captain, are charged with homicide and could face the death penalty.

On April 16, Captain Lee Joon-seok, wearing just a sweater and his underpants, boarded a small rescue boat while hundreds of his passengers were still on board -- possibly following his orders to stay put.

Thirteen other crew members were also among the first to be rescued the day the Sewol ferry capsized and sank.

In total, 172 people were rescued on that day.

Since then, no survivors have been found.

More than 300 people -- mostly high school students -- perished in the Sewol tragedy.

The coast guards who rescued them said they had no idea the people they rescued were crew members and the captain.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye likened the captain’s and crew members’ actions to murder just a few days after the ferry sank.

"The actions of the captain and some crew members just cannot be understood with common sense. The actions are like murder and should not be tolerated,” said the president.

With so much anger and hostility still being felt by South Koreans, the trial is set to begin on Tuesday in the southern city of Gwangju in Jeolla province.

Reports said that private lawyers would not even take their cases.

Thus, six state lawyers have been appointed to defend the captain and his crew.

The Gwangju District Court had said in a statement that the court will guarantee the rights of both the defendants and the victims, and faithfully investigate the evidence for a speedy and fair trial.

But will they really be able to get a fair trial?

The court of popular opinion in South Korea has already found them guilty, even before the start of the trial. 

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