An October 15, 2012 file photo of the captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, as he leaves hearings at a Grosseto court. / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster, in which 32 people were killed when the cruise ship ran aground off the Italian island of Giglio, the captain of the ship told an Italian newspaper that he "was painted worse than bin Laden."
Francesco Schettino said in an interview with the Turin newspaper La Stampa that he is tormented by the disaster.
"It is sincere pain from the bottom of my heart," he said.
The 950-foot-long Costa Concordia struck rocks and capsized on January 13 last year. Thirty-two people aboard were killed and hundreds injured in the panicked evacuation.
Prosecutors have accused Shettino of sailing the luxury liner too close to shore. He faces multiple charges of manslaughter and of abandoning ship during the evacuation of the 4,200 passengers and crew on board.
Italian media have referred to Schettino as "Captain Coward,"
He complained to the paper that the press' characterization of him and his actions "ridicules not just 30 years of my work, my experience in the whole world, but also the image of our country, which has been exposed to the criticism, often unjust, of the entire planet."
Schettino - who told the paper that he did not intentionally abandon ship, but slipped and fell into a lifeboat when the Concordia listed to its side - says he may have made a mistake by sailing too close to land, but he was not given exact information, and should not be the only one to get the blame.
In fact, eight others (including the ship's first officer and four other crew members, and three members of a crisis unit set up by the cruise ship's owner) also face possible criminal charges following the Italian prosecutors' investigation, which concluded last month.
Last Thursday at a Naples courtroom, Schettino brought a case against Costa Cruises, the ship's operator, for wrongful dismissal.
Efforts by salvage crews to right the ship are underway.