NEWS

Judge orders Baltic Sky crew held

An investigating magistrate in the western town of Messolongi yesterday ordered the detention of seven crewmen from a freighter found to be carrying 680 tons of explosives in Greek waters on Sunday. The Baltic Sky, a Comoros-flagged ship, has been held in port near the nearby town of Astakos. The five Ukrainians, including the captain, and two Azeris, are charged with illegally possessing explosives and breaking maritime laws. They will be held pending trial. No trial date was set. Commandos boarded the vessel on Sunday as it sailed in Greek waters in the Ionian Sea, because, as Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis said, it broke maritime law by not declaring its dangerous cargo before entering Greek waters. He revealed yesterday also that the Comoros had said the ship was not registered there because of its bad condition. A NATO spokesman in Brussels said yesterday that a «southern Mediterranean country,» which he did not identify further, had alerted the alliance to the Baltic Sky. NATO, which is carrying out the anti-terrorism Operation Active Endeavor, warned member states about the ship. «There was concern about it for some time,» the NATO official said, according to the Agence France-Presse. «To actually not go anywhere in particular is odd behavior… NATO played a role. There was an involvement of Operation Active Endeavor,» in the boat’s seizure, although the main action was taken by the Greeks, he added, requesting anonymity. Initial suspicion that the cargo might have been destined for terrorist use has been complicated by the fact that both Tunisia, where the explosives were loaded on the ship on May 12, and Sudan, where they were headed, insist the cargo was fully legal. Anomeritis has since backed down on the terrorist claim, but has asked why the ship meandered around the Mediterranean, sailing up to Istanbul and then down to Astakos over six weeks instead of going from Gabes, Tunisia, to Port Sudan, a journey that should have taken four days. Captain Anatoliy Baltak said he was innocent, claiming the ship’s Irish owner had instructed him to sail to Astakos instead of Sudan.