Somaliland releases Russian crew

Six Russian crew members given suspended one-year sentences for trying to fly arms into Puntland region.

    Somaliland, which voted for its own president in June, is not internationall recognised as sovereign [EPA]

    Six Russians have been released by a court in Somaliland after being sentenced to one-year suspended prison sentences for entering the enclave's airspace illegally and landing a plane with military supplies in violation of a UN embargo.

    In his ruling on Thursday at the court in the city of of Hargeisa, judge Abdirqahman Jama Hayan also fined each man three million Somaliland shillings, or around $600.

    The six Russians were arrested earlier this month after they landed an Antonov-24 cargo plane at the Egal International Airport on December 10.

    Two South African citizens on board the plane have since been released.

    The cargo on the flight also reportedly included bullet and grenade pouches.

    Aden Ahmed Diriye, assistant general prosecutor, told the court that claims by the crew that an emergency landing was necessary because the plane was suffering from a fuel shortage were false.

    Kadar Mohamed Guleid, the Russians' lawyer, said he was satisfied by the verdict and would not appeal.

    All of the weapons on the plane will be confiscated, the judge announced.

    Somaliland declared itself independent from Somalia in 1991 following violent crackdowns against local people by

    President Siad Barre, who led Somalia from 1969 until his downfall in 1991, which precipitated the war that still engulfs the country.

    Puntland, which unlike Somaliland does not seek recognition as an independent state, was formed in 1998.

    Somaliland is involved in a border dispute with Puntland and the two security forces sometimes clash.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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