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Mexico expels British explorers

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Mexico expels British explorers

Monday, March 29, 2004

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) -- Mexico issued expulsion orders against 13 British cavers who immigration authorities determined had violated their tourist visas during an expedition described by British military officials as an adventure training exercise.

The Britons will be placed aboard a flight to London and barred from re-entering Mexico for two years, because they failed to reveal the true purpose of their visit, said Armando Salinas, Mexico's assistant Interior Secretary.

While stating they were here as tourists, they "carried out activities of exploration, scientific study and training," Salinas said.

Under armed guard, the Britons were transported to Mexico City's International Airport aboard an immigration police bus with bars across the windows.

The bus dropped off the Britons' bags, and sped toward an airport entrance not open to the public.

The announcement came hours after the Attorney General's office found there was no evidence the cave explorers did anything illegal in exploring a cave near Mexico City.

Despite reports the men had been secretly prospecting for uranium -- deposits of which don't exist in the cave they were exploring -- Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha said prosecutors "have not encountered any illegal conduct."

However, in a separate decision, immigration officials said the Britons violated two counts of immigration law by failing to reveal the nature of their trip. They had faced the possibility of maximum penalties of up to 18 months in prison and fines of up to 3,000 pesos ($270).

Six of the cavers were trapped inside the cave by floodwaters for more than a week, and had refused help from Mexican officials, instead waiting for a British rescue team.

President Vicente Fox then raised questions about the activities of the team, which included British military members. Some members of the Mexican press had speculated the explorers were searching for signs of uranium.

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