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Italian ship captain is denied plea deal

GROSSETO, Italy — Italian prosecutors on Tuesday rejected a plea-bargain bid by the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground off Italy last year, killing 32 people, defense lawyers said.

Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and abandoning ship before all 4,200 passengers and crew were evacuated.

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Defense lawyer Francesco Pepe said Schettino had wanted to defend himself at a trial but when the five other defendants in the shipwreck off the Tuscan coast all sought plea bargains during a hearing Tuesday, his defense team decided to change strategy.

‘‘We weren’t planning on requesting a plea bargain. But when we saw the development in the hearing, we were practically obliged to do so,’’ Pepe said.

Prosecutors agreed to plea bargains for the other five defendants but not for Schettino, lawyers said, meaning Schettino might be the only defendant if a trial is ordered.

Prosecutors left the hearing without talking to reporters.

A judge must rule on prosecutors’ request that Schettino be indicted. Another hearing was scheduled for Thursday but it was not immediately known when the decision would be announced.

Prosecutors have alleged that Schettino steered the ship dangerously close to the island but the captain says he is being made a scapegoat. He contends the Concordia struck a reef that was not on nautical charts.

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