The crewmen of M/T Levante (Photo courtesy of Crystal Allera)
MANILA -- The Libyan High Court has acquitted and ordered the release of the seven M/T Levante seafarers who have been accused of oil smuggling and detained for almost two years in Libya, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced Monday night.
"The Department of Foreign Affairs welcomes the acquittal of seven Filipino seafarers who have been held in Libya since 2017," the agency through Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato said in a statement.
Chargé d'Affaires Mardomel Celo Melicor said the Embassy received a copy of the High Court's order on Sunday. The Embassy is now coordinating the repatriation of the seven seafarers with Libyan authorities, the DFA said.
The seven, who were earlier sentenced by a lower court to four years in prison for allegedly attempting to smuggle fuel, were among 20 Filipinos taken into custody after the Libyan Coast Guard boarded and seized the Liberian-flagged tanker while it was anchored in international waters.
The Filipinos were investigated and detained for alleged economic sabotage because they supposedly attempted to smuggle 6 million liters of fuel.
The seven officers remained at the Mitiga airbase jail facility while the other 13 were freed last year after charges against them were dropped.
According to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Cabinet Secretary Abdullah Mamao would be traveling to Libya on March 8 as the representative of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs to receive the seven acquitted seamen.
Locsin, for his part, extended gratitude to the Libyan government as well as to the agency's Assistance to Nationals Fund for paying for the appeals lawyers who got the seven seamen, who have consistently denied the charges, acquitted.
"We thank the Assistance to Nationals Fund as well for paying for the appeals lawyers who got our people acquitted. I thank the Libyan government. Yes, the justice system works in Libya. Hope to pay a visit soon," he said on his Twitter account. (PNA)