Poland's president seeks release of Polish traveler sentenced to life in Congo

Poland's President Andrzej Duda is pictured in Warsaw, Jan. 10, 2024. His office on May 27, 2024, said Duda had spoken with the Congolese president to try to get the release of a Polish traveler sentenced there to prison on sabotage charges. [AP Photo]

Polish President Andrzej Duda has spoken on the phone with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi to try to obtain the release of a Polish traveler who was sentenced to life in prison in the Central African country on espionage charges, an aide said Monday.

Congolese forces detained Mariusz Majewski, 52, in February and he later faced a military court in the restive nation, accused of spying.

The allegations against him said that he had “approached the front line with Mobondo militiamen," moved along the front line without authorization and "took photos of sensitive and strategic places and secretly observed military activities.”

The Mobondo have been involved in intercommunal violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's southwest since 2022.

Majewski was convicted last week and sentenced to life in prison. No details have been released as to where he is being held.

Duda's aide, Wojciech Kolarski, did not say what the outcome of the conversation between the two presidents was but stressed that the state had the obligation to take care of its citizens who find themselves in such dramatic situations overseas.

Majewski's family says he is in poor health and insists that he is just a traveler.

Last week, Polish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Pawel Wronski said without elaborating that Majewski “is not a spy, he is a member of a travelers club" and was just following his “passion in life.”

Wronski said a chain of coincidental circumstances and events led to Majewski's presence in Congo and his "behavior was the result of a lack of knowledge of local customs.”

Polish authorities are aware of the “very difficult political situation in Congo" and a recent coup attempt there but expressed hope that Majewski would not be implicated in a situation he has no connection to.

Poland does not have a diplomatic mission in Congo.

Earlier this month, the Congolese army said it had foiled a coup attempt and arrested the perpetrators, including some foreigners. Several U.S. citizens were among those arrested.

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