Prosecutors seek death penalty for S. Korean ferry captain

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GWANGJU, South Korea (CNN) — South Korean prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the captain of the capsized Sewol ferry and life in prison for three other crew members involved in the deadly disaster earlier this year.

The death penalty is unusual in South Korea, which has not carried out executions in 17 years. It hasn’t been used in decades, as a backlash to how it was used in the past for political purposes.

Prosecutors charged the captain, Lee Joon-seok and the three crew members with murder, because prosecutors allege the ferry’s crew members didn’t use the ship’s facilities such as life rafts, life vests and announcements to evacuate passengers.

Prosecutors are also seeking 30 years in prison for a female crew member, who was at the helm of the ship at the time of its sinking.

The closing statement was held Monday, and the judges are expected to issue a verdict and sentencing on another date.

At least 294 people died — including hundreds of high school students on a field trip — when the Sewol capsized off South Korea’s southwestern coast on April 16. Ten bodies have still yet to be found.

The Sewol disaster caused widespread outrage in South Korea over lax safety standards and the failure to rescue more people as the ship foundered.

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