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Concordia survivors seek justice

The first hearing of the criminal investigation into the Costa Concordia's shipwreck was held in a theatre instead of a courthouse because of high demand, with angry survivors seeking compensation, justice and the truth.

The judge at the hearing assigned four experts to analyse the cruise ship's data recorder and ordered them to report their findings in July, confirming predictions by prosecutor Francesco Verusio that examination of the data, as well as of conversations involving officers on the ship's bridge, could take months.

Prosecutors must decide whether to seek a trial against the captain, other top officers and officials of Italian cruise company Costa Crociere SpA, which is owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp.

Crucial to their decision could be details as the Concordia's speed when it slammed into a reef the night of January 13 off Giglio island, its exact route and what commands were given by whom and when.

Participants acknowledged that the search for truth and justice will be a long one.

"Today is just the beginning," said Francesco Compagna, a lawyer for some passengers and an injured Russian crew member, Irina Nazarova.

"It is the first day. We don't expect quick things but we think that the investigation must follow in all the directions," said the lawyer.

The shipwreck killed 25 people, and seven others are missing and presumed dead. Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of abandoning ship while many of the 4,200 passengers and crew were still aboard during a confused evacuation.

Prosecutors say the captain steered the ship too close to the island to show off the vessel to islanders in a publicity stunt.

Survivor Sergio Ammarota, among those who entered the hearing, said he wanted to know "exactly how it (the crash) happened and why the captain ... could have carried out such a manoeuvre."

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