, GROSSETO, July 9- Captain Francesco Schettino, dubbed Italy’s “most hated man” by tabloids over the spectacular crash of his cruise ship in 2012 with the loss of 32 lives, went on trial on Tuesday charged with manslaughter.
The 52 year old, also dubbed “Captain Coward” over accusations that he abandoned ship while terrified passengers were still trapped onboard, looked tense as he arrived for the start of the trial in Grosseto.
It is being held in a theatre in the city, the closest to the site of the wreck of the Costa Concordia on the island of Giglio, due to the large numbers of survivors from the tragedy expected to attend.
Schettino, wearing sunglasses and a blue jacket, came in through the press entrance by mistake and was immediately mobbed by dozens of reporters, fending them off and asking to be let through.
Schettino, who is not being detained during the trial, has asked for television cameras not to be allowed in.
“Otherwise it would be a film,” he said in an interview with Italian daily Il Messaggero.
“There has been media havoc since the tragedy. This is not some village festival, this is a trial. There are people who died and a man who will try to explain.
“I really think the truth will out,” he said.
The hearing was cut short after just a few minutes because of a national lawyers’ strike and the trial was adjourned to a hearing on July 17.
With his slicked back hair and macho swagger, Schettino has been portrayed as a villain who was showing off in front of a female guest by performing a risky “salute” manoeuvre which ended in tragedy.
“Madonna, what have I done?” he was heard gasping on audio recordings from the bridge just after the crash.
But his defence team has said that while he made mistakes he should not be the sole defendant, and the ship’s owner Costa Crociere, Europe’s top cruise operator, should share at least some of the blame.
Lawyers for some survivors say he is a scapegoat.