GROSSETO, Italy (Reuters) - The trial of the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which capsized off Italy's coast last year killing 32 people, was delayed just as it started on Tuesday because of a lawyers' strike.
The giant Concordia flipped on its side outside the Tuscan port of Giglio in January 2012 after it struck rocks during a maneuver that brought it too close to shore.
Captain Francesco Schettino, who left the ship before all its crew and passengers had been rescued, faces charges including multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship.
He argues that he managed to prevent a worse disaster by steering the vessel into shallow waters after the impact to help the rescue operation.
He arrived at the theatre where hearings are being held in the Tuscan town of Grosseto wearing a blue suit and sunglasses, declining to answer questions from a scrum of reporters.
The trial was immediately postponed until July 17 because the lawyers involved in the case were taking part in the nationwide strike to protest at measures aimed at streamlining civil trials.
Lawyers, whose strike is due to last until July 16, are also angry at Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri accusing them of blocking reforms.
The Concordia accident triggered a chaotic night-time evacuation of more than 4,000 passengers and crew from the 290-metre-long ship (951-ft), which still rests on a rock shelf outside Giglio port.
If found guilty, Schettino could face up to 20 years in jail, his lawyer has said.
State prosecutors rejected a plea bargain offer from Schettino in May but accepted those of five other officials, including four ship's officers and the crisis coordinator of the vessel's owners, Costa Cruises.
Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp, agreed to pay a 1-million-euro ($1.29 million) fine to settle potential criminal charges in April. That means that Schettino will be the only person tried for the maritime disaster. ($1 = 0.7773 euros)
(Reporting by Antonio Denti; Writing by Catherine Hornby; Editing by Alison Williams)