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Crew of plane carrying arms may face death sentence

world Updated: Dec 16, 2009 13:39 IST

The Kazakh and Belarusian crew of a plane caught transporting arms from North Korea may face the death penalty, a Thai paper said on Wednesday, citing the police.

The Il-76 cargo plane, carrying about 40 tonnes of weaponry, was seized after landing for refuelling at Bangkok's Don Muang airport Dec 12. Officials said the weapons included missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.

The paper quoted a senior police official as saying that the crew would be charged with the illegal possession of explosives, punishable by "from two years to death".

The plane's five crew members, one Belarus national and four Kazakhs, were taken to Bangkok's Klong Prem Central Prison after their arrest.

The Bangkok Post quoted investigators as saying the crew were planning to offload part of their cargo in Sri Lanka and the Middle East. However, the suspects reportedly refused to name the buyers or locations.

The plane's Belarusian commander earlier said that the plane had flown from Ukraine, and claimed that neither he nor the other crewmembers knew of the military nature of the cargo.