Argentine chamber allows release of Venezuelan plane’s detained crew

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FILE PHOTO: An Argentinian flag waves at the Presidential Palace Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – An Argentine judicial chamber has allowed 12 of 19 crew members of a Venezuelan plane to leave Argentina, local media reported on Tuesday, after the plane was detained in June due to suspicions the aircraft of Iranian origin had terrorism ties.

The Federal Court of Appeals of La Plata in the province of Buenos Aires authorized the 12 crew members’ departure and ordered a judge to resolve the investigation into the crew within 10 days, news outlets La Nacion and Infobae reported.

The court did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Emtrasur cargo plane was sold to Venezuela by Iran’s Mahan Air a year ago, according to the Iranian airline. It arrived in Buenos Aires in early June, according to flight tracking data, with both Venezuelan and Iranian crew members.

Its arrival caused a diplomatic issue for Argentina, which the United States accused of supporting U.S.-sanctioned countries Iran and Venezuela.

A U.S. court asked Argentina to seize the aircraft in August, which it did the following week. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the court order was intended to “steal” the plane.

Iran and Venezuela maintain close ties and signed a 20-year cooperation plan in June. Center-left Argentine President Alberto Fernandez has criticized U.S. sanctions on Caracas.

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Argentine authorities detained the plane because of suspicions about its declared reason for entering the country, according to a National Directorate of Migration document that Reuters saw.

The plane’s seizure generated outrage in Caracas by supporters of the ruling party, who marched to demand its release.

(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Editing by Josie Kao)

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