MOSCOW, February 19 (RIA Novosti) – A Nigerian court will go ahead with a hearing in an arms trafficking case against 15 Russian sailors next Monday, their ship’s owner said on Tuesday, after an appeal to release the crew was declined.
The ship, Myre Seadiver, was detained in the port of Lagos on October 19 after the Nigerian authorities discovered it was carrying an assortment of weapons, including 14 Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles with some 5,000 rounds of ammunition. The owner, Moscow-based security firm Moran Security Group, said the arsenal was on board to protect against pirates who frequently prey on shipping along the Nigerian coast.
The court held a preliminary hearing earlier today to decide whether its Russian crew should be released from a pre-trial detention facility, where they have been kept since October 25. The judge turned down the request.
“The prosecution requested additional time… The trial itself will begin on Monday,” said Moran Security Group spokesman Sergei Maximov.
The Russian sailors were also charged with violating the border and illegally crossing into Nigeria.
“Those charges against them are quite absurd. To tell the truth, 11 of the 15 people arrived by plane and applied for a visa in the Nigerian Embassy,” Maximov said. “Another set of charges against them lists arms trafficking and illegal possession of weapons.”