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Appeal court finds Sewol captain guilty of murder, life sentence given

Appeal court finds Sewol captain guilty of murder, life sentence given
Lee Joon-seok, captain of the South Korean ferry Sewol, has been found guilty of the murder of 304 people by an appeals court and his sentence has been upped to life imprisonment.

The appeals court overturned a previous verdict of gross negligence finding him guilty of the murder of 304 people, many of them children when the ferry Sewol capsized last year, and Lee fled the vessel.

The court also strengthened the nearly-70-year-old Lee’s earlier conviction of 36 years, despite the unlikelihood of his ever being freed, however, as with the earlier ruling Lee escaped the death penalty.

The appeal court judge compared Lee’s actions with a doctor deserting sick and dying people in hospital, according to a BBC report.

Protests were held outside the courts by relatives of the dead, many of them demanding that Lee face a death penalty. Jeon Myung-sun, father of Sewol ferry victim Jeon Chan-ho was quoted by AP as saying: "He should have received death penalty. Imprisonment for life? They want to give life sentence to a person so that he can peacefully die when he is old?"

Despite toughening Lee’s sentence, the courts gave more lenient sentences to 14 other crew members.