Officer in charge of Israeli ship that killed 7 Japanese sentenced to community service

The ship's officer in charge of an Israeli cargo ship that rammed a Japanese fishing boat, killing seven people, was sentenced to six months of community service in a local hospital, following a plea bargain.

Second Officer Pilastro Zdravko, a Montenegrin citizen, was in command of the Zim Asia container ship when it crashed into the fishing boat in darkness on the morning of Sept. 28, 2005, about 25 miles off the northern coast of Japan, killing seven of the eight men on the boat, reports AP.

The Israeli ship's crew initially denied involvement in the accident, but confessed when confronted with evidence. The behavior caused a diplomatic incident between Israel and Japan, which demanded a full investigation and punishment of those responsible. Zdravko was the only crew member charged.

"I'm very sorry for what has happened to those families," he told reporters in court Sunday in the port city of Haifa." I just want to finish my punishment and go back home."

Zdravko pleaded guilty to charges of causing death by negligence and the prosecution accepted the plea bargain because Japanese witnesses were either unable or unwilling to come to Israel to testify in a trial, Israeli media reported.

After admitting its fault, the Zim company apologized and pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

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