Captain accused in migrant boat disaster appears in Italian court

The presumed captain of a migrant boat that sank off Libya with the loss of more than 700 lives has appeared before an Italian judge after prosecutors asked that he be charged with homicide and people-trafficking.

27 year old Mohammed Ali Malek, denied that he was in charge of the heavily overloaded fishing boat that capsized on Sunday with hundreds of migrants locked in its lower decks.

A 25-year-old Syrian, Mahmud Bikhit, who prosecutors believe was a crew member, has accused Malek of being in charge of the vessel when it collided with a merchant ship coming to its aid and capsized.

Bikhit denied being a crew member and said he was a migrant passenger on the ship.

Prosecutors are not asking for homicide charges to be brought against him but he may face charges of favoring clandestine immigration.