Colombia frees Chinese ship caught carrying weapons illegally
By Luis Jaime Acosta
BOGOTA, April 21 (Reuters) - Colombia has authorized a Chinese ship to set sail after it was caught carrying 100 tonnes of explosives to Cuba illegally, the prosecutor's office said on Tuesday, though it continues to hold the vessel's captain pending a criminal investigation.
The ship was detained on Feb. 28 after docking in the coastal city of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast. Inspectors found the explosives plus 2.6 million detonators, 99 projectile heads and around 3,000 canon shells on board.
The documentation presented by the crew said the ship, the Da Dan Xia, was carrying grains.
A Cartagena-based judge authorized the ship to depart after nearly two months because Colombian authorities do not have the logistical capacity to unload, store or destroy the weaponry found aboard, the prosecutor's office said.
"The judge considered it necessary to free the ship with all the cargo to not put at risk our coastline or the communities," Vicente Guzman, head of the prosecutor's office for the Cartagena region, told reporters.
China's Foreign Ministry says the ship was transporting regular military supplies to Cuba as part of its trade and military cooperation with the communist-run island and that it had not violated any international norms.
The Da Dan Xia is operated by Cosco Shipping Co Ltd , part of the state-owned China Ocean Shipping Group Co.
The producer of the cargo, Norinco, is China's biggest arms maker. A spokesman said after the ship's detention in March that reports of what the ship was carrying were "not true" and that the company sent mainly raw materials to produce bullets. Continuación...