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Rome - The captain of the Costa Concordia scored a legal victory on Tuesday, as the Italian court trying him for manslaughter and other serious crimes accepted a request from his lawyers for another examination of the shipwrecked cruise liner.
The defence team for the captain, Francesco Schettino, is trying to find new evidence to bolster its claim that he is being made a scapegoat, while mistakes made by others on the night of the disaster and safety problems with the ship are being overlooked.
Presiding judge Giovanni Puliatti said the new survey aboard the Concordia would take place once the ship is firmly secured by engineers. The hull was righted only last week, after lying sideways, partly capsized, for 20 months.
The new probe was to focus on the ship's lifts and computer systems, Puliatti said. He also authorised the removal of the vessel's propellers and rudder, as requested by owners Costa Crociere, to facilitate salvage operations.
In addition, the court ordered the restitution of Schettino's passport and other personal items, which had been taken away after the Concordia ran aground off the Italian island of Giglio on January 13, last year.
Proceedings in Grosseto, central Italy, were adjourned to October 7, when two crew members will be the first witnesses.
Experts carried out a survey of the Concordia last year. The admiral who led the study told the court on Monday that its Indonesian helmsman was slow to react when Schettino ordered a last-minute move to avoid a reef.
But Giuseppe Cavo Dragone also said that the impact would have happened anyway, contradicting Schettino's claim that had the helmsman followed orders, the Concordia could have escaped unscathed, or with minimal damage.
The captain is accused of having taken the cruise liner dangerously close to the shore to perform a stunt, and to have badly mishandled emergency procedures. He left the Concordia before all the passengers had been evacuated.
Thirty-two of the 4 229 people on board died in the accident.
On Tuesday, scuba divers resumed the search for Indian waiter Russel Rebello and Italian passenger Maria Grazia Trecarichi, two victims whose bodies were never found.