In a ruling that followed five months of dramatic, often painful testimony, a three-judge court said prosecutors failed to prove Captain Lee Jun-Seok, 69, had acted with an intention to kill.
However, he was convicted of gross negligence and dereliction of duty, including abandoning his vessel while hundreds of passengers – most of them schoolchildren – remained trapped on board.
Relatives who were present in the courtroom in the southern city of Gwangju reacted furiously to the murder acquittal. While others wept openly, one woman shouted at the judges:
‘Where is the justice?!
“It’s not fair. What about the lives of our children? They (the accused men) deserve worse than death!”
Three other senior crew members, who had also faced homicide charges, were sentenced to jail terms of between 15 and 30 years.
Announcing the verdict, Judge Lim Joung-Youb said:
“We find it hard to conclude that the defendants… were aware that all of the victims would die because of their actions and they had an intention to kill them.
Therefore the murder charges are not accepted.
The 6,825-tonne Sewol was carrying 476 people on board when it capsized. Of the 304 who died, 250 were students from the same high school.
Just hours before the court gave its ruling, Maritime Minister Lee Ju-Young announced the end of the near seven-month search of the sunken vessel for missing bodies.
With nine victims still unaccounted for, and warnings that they may have been washed out to sea, Lee said he ‘deeply regretted’ that some families would be left with no body to mourn.
The minister did not elaborate on when or whether the government plans to pull the ship out of water, saying the decision would be made after discussions with experts.Lee sitting second left in front row
The decision to end the search was agreed by the families of the nine passengers still missing
Culled From: DailyMail UK