North Korean sailors whose dilapidated ship was halted near the Panama Canal and found to be carrying military equipment could face up to six years in jail, a prosecutor has said. The 35-man crew of the Chong Chon Gang are in custody at a former U.S. military base in the port of Manzanillo in northern Panama.

The Soviet-era weaponry, discovered among tonnes of sugar during an anti-drugs search, belongs to Cuba and was being taken to North Korea for repair. North Korea has demanded the vessel’s return, saying the shipment formed part of a legitimate deal with Cuba. On Wednesday Panama officially requested United Nations inspectors scrutinise the cargo. — AFP