BUDAPEST, March 11 (Xinhua) -- Less than a year after the Swiss-registered Viking Sigyn cruise ship collided on the river Danube in Budapest with the small tour boat Mermaid killing 26 South Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew members, the trial of the cruise ship captain began at the Budapest Regional Court on Wednesday.
The small tour boat sank within seconds of the collision. Of the 35 people on board the Mermaid, only seven survived. One passenger has never been found.
The Hungarian authorities have accused Yurij C., the Ukrainian captain of the cruise ship, of criminal negligence. The captain arrived at Wednesday's trial from house arrest, the Hungarian news agency MTI said.
He is charged by Budapest prosecutors with "endangering waterborne traffic resulting in multiple deaths" and 35 counts of failing to provide help.
At the trial, Yurij C. did not want to testify, saying that he was not yet prepared to do so, according to MTI.
If found guilty, he could be sentenced to between two and 11 years of imprisonment due to the cumulative nature of the sentences.
The Budapest District Prosecutor's Office has proposed that the court sentence him to nine years in prison and disqualify him from his profession for nine years if he pleaded guilty and waived his right to trial at Wednesday's session, but the captain did not ask for the waiver of his trial.
"The captain's lawyer said he believed the investigation had not been fully conducted and therefore requested the hearing of dozens of witnesses aboard the Viking Sigyn at the time of the accident," MTI reported.
MTI noted that the defense also presented multiple evidence and called for the hearing of experts.
"What had happened was the most serious accident in the history of Hungarian fluvial shipping, and whether he would be condemned or acquitted, the captain has to live his life with the burden of having been present at the event," the lawyer said.
In court, a South Korean victim's legal representative indicated that South Korean victims' relatives were expected to travel to Budapest for a commemoration of the first anniversary of the accident and requested that the date of the trial be set accordingly.
The court scheduled the next hearing for April 30, and another one for May 28, one day before the accident's first anniversary.