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15 Jul, 2008 01:26

Spain accuses Russian sailors of hashish smuggling

Fifteen Russian sailors arrested in Spain for alleged drug trafficking have been allowed to see their relatives. They were detained two months ago, along with other foreigners in the port of Huelva on the Atlantic coast.

The crew maintains it undertook the extra work of unloading cargo from an unknown vessel while their ship was under repair.  

Spanish police say they were caught unloading a cargo load which contained four tonnes of hashish.

However the sailors insist they did not know the contents of the cargo container.

“They say they got into a minivan which drove them around the port for about four hours. They were not even taken to the warehouse. Early in the morning they were detained,” defies accusations Igor Lebedev, captain of the detained crew.

The investigation into the case could last for up to two years.

Spanish police say the group were involved in drug trafficking. They also said simply by agreeing to do the job without permission, they were breaking the law.

No official charges have yet been brought against the Russian sailors.

They had served on two trawlers, which in 2004 had been seized by a company belonging to a Mauritanian businessman, Abbas Bugurbal.

In 2007, a Spanish court ordered the trawlers be returned to Russia, which caused the Mauritanian entrepreneur to appeal against.

And it is being suggested that while the ships were awaiting another court decision, the hashish scandal may not have been mere coincidence.