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Jun 27, 11:16 PM EDT

Panama court frees captain of seized N Korea ship

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PANAMA CITY (AP) -- A Panamanian judge absolved the captain and two other officers of charges stemming from the seizure of a North Korean ship last July for carrying undeclared military equipment from Cuba, a court statement said Friday.

The court in Colon ruled that the weapons and other equipment should be turned over to Panamanian authorities.

The court ordered the three crewmen of the Chong Chon Gang freed, saying the issue of whether the ship violated a U.N. arms embargo against North Korea was not a matter for Panama to decide.

The ship's other 32 sailors were allowed to sail the vessel back to North Korea in February after the owner paid a $700,000 fine.

The ship was stopped as it tried to enter the Panama Canal and was found to hold two Cuban fighter jets and other military equipment hidden under tons of sugar. U.N. experts determined the ship had violated U.N. sanctions against North Korea.

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