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Published: Saturday June 28, 2014 MYT 9:35:02 AM
Updated: Saturday June 28, 2014 MYT 9:36:21 AM

Panama court orders release of jailed North Korean sailors

Bags labeled "Cuban Raw Sugar" are seen inside a North Korean flagged ship "Chong Chon Gang" docked at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon City July 16, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Bags labeled "Cuban Raw Sugar" are seen inside a North Korean flagged ship "Chong Chon Gang" docked at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon City July 16, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - A Panamanian court on Friday ordered the release of three North Korean ship officers who were jailed after they were caught smuggling Cuban weapons through the Central American country.

The court absolved the captain and two officers, ruling that charges against them fell outside of Panama's jurisdiction, the country's judicial authority said in a statement.

The Chong Chon Gang ship was seized in July last year for smuggling Soviet-era arms, including two MiG-21 jet fighters, under thousands of tonnes of sugar.

Thirty-two North Korean sailors and the ship were released back in February.

A United Nations report issued in March said North Korea has developed sophisticated ways to circumvent United Nations sanctions, including the suspected use of its embassies to facilitate an illegal trade in weapons.

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