Migrant boat 'captain' appears emotionless in first court appearance

Ship captain Mohammed Ali Malek sat in the dock. Credit: Reuters

He is accused of kidnapping and multiple homicide, but despite the enormity of the charges, Mohammed Ali Malek sat for most part impassively in the caged dock of a Sicilian court this morning.

I was allowed allowed in briefly ahead of the opening of what will be a long legal process.

I watched Malek consult with his lawyers. The 27-year-old Tunisian then returned to his seat, grim-faced.

It's very different to the last view we had of him, laughing and joking on the deck of the rescue vessel bring him and survivors of his doomed ship to port.

His co-accused, Mahmoud Bikhit was also in court. So, too, the first of the survivors on whose testimony the prosecution case depends.

Italy wants to showcase this trial as proof it making progress in what its government said this week was a 'war' on people traffickers.