Panama reverses: North Korean crew not freed

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Associated Press

Posted on November 27, 2013 at 11:04 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 27 at 11:33 PM

COLON, Panama (AP) — A Panamanian prosecutor who reported the release of all but three of 35 crewmen of a North Korean ship seized for carrying Cuban weapons is reversing his story, saying all are still being held.

The organized crime prosecutor said earlier today that only the ship's captain, first mate and a Korean official who watched the crew would continue to be detained and face charges of arms trafficking. He appeared later in the afternoon at the base where the crew members are being held and changed his version, saying only the ship was legally free to go. He left without further comment.

Although the ship is legally free to sail, officials with the independent Panama Canal Zone say the ship cannot move until the North Koreans pay a $1 million fine, which was levied for threatening the canal's security by not declaring the weapons. Panama says the weapons violated U.N. sanctions restricting arms trading with North Korea.

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