20 Chinese crewmen
going home tomorrow

10 others will remain here to testify
in the murder trial of Shi Lei

By Leila Fujimori

Twenty of 30 Chinese crewmen of a Taiwanese fishing vessel, detained in Honolulu for two months as witnesses in a double murder case, will fly home tomorrow, according to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

After giving videotaped depositions to be used in the trial of accused murderer Shi Lei, the men were turned over to the INS on May 28 but had been held at the federal detention center since April 1.

Shi, the ship's cook, allegedly stabbed the captain and first mate on the fishing vessel Full Means No. 2 in March.

The vessel's owner, FCF Fishing Co., purchased the tickets for the crew's return flight, said Bryan Ho, the company's attorney.

The company also settled the majority of the crewmen's claims, including past and future wages, for $64,016.

The U.S. attorney's office has retained six of the crewmen as witnesses for the prosecution until the trial. They are staying temporarily at a private residence.

Four others, who will testify for the defense, were released into the community while they wait to testify at trial.

Among them is Wang Fu Xiang, 20, who admitted in a statement to the government that he had assisted Shi but had no intent to commit the felony, said Michael Burt, special defense counsel.

When pressed last week by Judge Helen Gillmor, federal prosecutors said they have not ruled out charging Wang, who did not answer any questions during his deposition, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Burt argued that Wang should not be allowed to take a "blanket Fifth," and wants to ask questions regarding the general conditions on the ship.

His attorney, Guy Matsunaga, told Gillmor he is concerned that the government may be charging his client as an accessory to the crime, and any answers could incriminate him.

Gillmor ruled that Shi's attorneys will have the opportunity to question Wang in her presence July 12, so that she may rule whether he can refuse to answer on a question-by-question basis.

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