A court in Panama has ordered the immediate release of three North Koreans detained last year for trying to transport undeclared Cuban weapons through the Panama Canal.
In his ruling Friday, the judge said the trio could not be held responsible for arms trafficking because they were merely executing and obeying direct orders from the state of North Korea.
The judge also noted that the incident was of international character and outside Panama's jurisdiction.
The North Korean freighter Chong Chon Gang was stopped last July and was found to be carrying Cuban military hardware, including two MiG-21 aircraft, air defense systems and missiles.
Thirty-two other North Korean sailors and the ship were released back in February.