Three crew members of a North Korean ship who were recently acquitted of charges of smuggling weapons through the Panama Canal have been released, a U.S. report said Sunday.
Voice of America (VOA) said the captain and two crew members aboard the Chong Chon Gang were released by the authorities in Panama on Friday and left for Cuba the following day. The three are scheduled to stop over in Moscow and Beijing before arriving in Pyongyang.
The North Korean freighter was seized by Panama in July 2013 while carrying Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles and other arms-related material hidden under sacks of sugar.
Panama released the other 32 crew members without charge after North Korea paid US$690,000 in fines in February but indicted the three on illegal arms dealing charges.
Early last month, Panamanian prosecutors demanded an eight-year prison term for the three members.
Julio Berrios, an attorney for the three, told VOA that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took great interest in the case and was kept up to date on the crew members' trials and itinerary. (Yonhap)