Filipino ship crew members acquitted by Libya’s High Court in oil smuggling case

Tripoli, Libya. Photo: Google maps
Tripoli, Libya. Photo: Google maps

Seven Filipino seafarers detained at a notorious Libyan jail are finally going home.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced yesterday that the Filipino seafarers accused of smuggling fuel were acquitted by the Libyan High Court.

The crew members were identified by GMA News as Arthur Soria Taleno, master; Fulgencio Pederito Eulogio, first officer; Claro Camintay Allera, second officer; Abraham Senara Naduma, Jr., third officer; Ronnie Lumales Moniya, chief engineer; Gil Dellupac Cruzada, second engineer; and Aldwin Salang-oy Emperada, third engineer.

The seafarers were detained by the Libyan Coast Guard in August 2017, reported ABS-CBN News. The oil tanker in which they were working on was seized by the authorities near the Tunisian border and allegedly contained six million liters of what was initially believed to be contraband fuel, reported AFP.

20 Filipino crew members were detained, but 13 of them were released on Feb. 17, 2018. The rest of the crew remained in Libya and despite their denials were initially convicted by the lower court of smuggling in November and sentenced to four years in prison.

The convicted crew stayed at the Mitiga airbase jail facility, one of the largest in the country, where some detainees are reportedly tortured, denied medical treatment, and even killed, reported Reuters.

The men can now put this nightmare behind them.

The DFA said the Philippine embassy in Tripoli received on Sunday the High Court’s decision that reversed the lower court’s ruling and is coordinating the repatriation of the seven sea crew members. DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted yesterday that Presidential Adviser Abdullah Mama-o will bring home the acquitted crew members.

Locsin also retweeted yesterday DFA Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato’s announcement that the crew members were acquitted and wrote: “I thank the Libyan Government. Yes, the justice system works in Libya.”

Last month, the families of the crew members appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to help secure the crew members’ release.

According to The Economist, a quarter of the world’s ship crew members are Filipinos, making the Philippines the biggest source of mariners. Companies started hiring Filipinos in the 1970s when they could no longer afford to hire staff from Western countries.

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