You're not human, South Korean ferry crew told as trial begins

GWANGJU, South Korea, June 10 Tue Jun 10, 2014 1:23am EDT

GWANGJU, South Korea, June 10 (Reuters) - Fifteen crew of a South Korean ferry that sank in April killing more than 300 people, mostly children, went on trial on Tuesday on charges ranging from negligence to homicide, with angry and grieving relatives of the dead packing the courtroom.

Most of the passengers were children from the same school on a field trip who stayed in their cabins as they were told while surviving crew members, including the captain, were caught on video abandoning ship.

Mourning family members packed the court in Gwangju, the closest city to the scene of the disaster, as the 15 were led in and seated in two rows of benches.

One relative held up a sign that read: "You are not human. You are beneath animals."

An altercation arose between the relatives and court security guards who tried to take the sign away.

The captain and three senior crew members were charged with homicide in May facing a maximum sentence of death. Two are charged with fleeing and abandoning ship that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Nine are charged with negligence, that also carries a maximum sentence of jail.

The 15 have been in detention since their indictments and appear to have been tried and convicted by an angry public even before the trial began. (Editing by Jack Kim and Nick Macfie)