Panama to free bulk of N. Korea ship crew

| Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 5:30 p.m.

PANAMA CITY — Panama's judicial authorities have ordered the release of 32 of 35 crew members of a North Korean ship detained in July for carrying hidden arms from Cuba, and they were working on the paperwork needed for them to leave.

Prosecutor Nahaniel Murgas on Thursday said the captain and two other crew members will remain to face arms trafficking charges.

He said a search of the ship turned up documents that showed “that the ship's captain, first officer and political officer had been given instructions about what to do if the illegal shipment was detected. There were certain recommendations.”

“Together with that were the statements by the rest of the crew, who said they were employees on the vessel but not responsible” for the shipment, he said. “It was based on that they decided to free the other 32.”

The Chong Chon Gang was carrying Cuban fighter jets and missiles. The owners agreed to pay a $670,000 fine this month to release the ship.

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