Costa Concordia trial 'could be delayed'

A national strike by Italian lawyers could delay the start of the manslaughter trial of the Costa Concordia's captain, charged for the cruise liner's deadly shipwreck in January 2012, a court official told AFP.

The first hearing will take place as scheduled on Tuesday, but if defendant Francesco Schettino's lawyers tell the judge they are adhering to the strike, then the trial will get under way only on July 17.

"We cannot know ahead of time," the official at the court in Grosseto, the nearest town to the site of the wreck, said on Thursday.

The next hearings after Tuesday are set for July 17, 18 and 19.

Travelling with 4,229 people from 70 countries on board, the cruise ship crashed into rocks off the island of Giglio and keeled over, sparking a panicky evacuation in a disaster that claimed 32 lives.

Schettino has been charged with multiple manslaughter, as well with causing an environmental disaster and abandoning the ship before all the passengers had been evacuated.

Four other crew members and a manager from ship owner Costa Crociere, Europe's top cruise operator, have agreed plea bargains which are likely to be confirmed in separate hearings.