Panama to decide fate of NKorean ship crew

Panama to decide whether to keep or release NKorean crew detained with Cuban jets, missiles

Associated Press
Panama to decide fate of NKorean ship crew
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CORRECTS YEAR IN SECOND SENTENCE - FILE - In this July 16, 2013 file photo, Panamanian presidential security detail walks on the deck aboard a North Korean-flagged ship at the Manzanillo International container terminal on the coast of Colon City, Panama. A Panamanian official said Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 the nation will soon determine whether to hold weapon charges against the crew aboard the ship seized with Cuban fighter jets and missiles in July or send them back home. The ship was headed from Cuba to North Korea when it was seized July 15, suspecting it carried drugs. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco, File)

PANAMA CITY (AP) -- A Panamanian official says the nation will soon decide whether to file weapon charges against the crew detained in July aboard a North Korean ship carrying Cuban fighter jets and missiles or send them back home.

Anti-drug prosecutor Javier Caraballo said Friday that a decision is expected in early November.

Panama is expecting a visit soon by North Korean diplomats who want to press for the 35 crew members' return.

The ship was headed from Cuba to North Korea when it was seized July 15 by authorities who suspected it carried drugs. A Panamanian official said the ship carried two Cuban fighter jets in perfect condition, contradicting Cuba's explanation that the cargo included "obsolete defensive weapons."

A preliminary report by U.N. experts determined that the seized ship violated U.N. sanctions.

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