Petition: Release Captain Andrzej Lasota
Captain Kuba Szymanski, Secretary General of InterManager, is calling on everyone, not just seafarers, to sign a petition calling for the release of Captain Andrzej Lasota, arrested by Mexican authorities on August 5.
The petition is a letter to the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, from Piotr Rusinek.
Lasota, master of the Cyprus-flagged general cargo ship UBC Savannah, has been under arrest for around four months without either due cause or trial. He was arrested on alleged negligence in failing to be aware that the ship he commanded may have been carrying prohibited substances, said substances being illegally delivered to Mexico, placing the lives and health of the country's citizens at risk. In excess of 240 kilograms of cocaine, buried under several thousand tons of coal, was discovered when ship’s Duty Officer, having noticed suspicious packages in the hold during unloading, informed the First Officer who subsequently notified the master.
Lasota immediately suspended discharging and reported the findings to the Mexican authorities who thereafter proceeded to arrest both the vessel and the entire crew. Rusinek says: “Despite the irrevocable facts that the vessel was subject to multiple extensive searches at the loading port, Barranquilla, Columbia, by both local police and port security officers, during which no drugs were located and the eventual lack of evidence of any involvement by any crewmember in the deployment of the drug consignment, the entire crew were imprisoned in the city of Ciudad Victoria.
“We are considering innocent seamen, going about their daily business, being treated as common criminals, needless to say, fearful of their immediate personal safety and imminent future of themselves and respective families/dependents.”
“With the exception of Captain Andrzej Lasota, the crew were released by the court some two months later, only to be re-arrested by the Immigration office due to their port passes having expired during their detainment. After a further six weeks in custody, they were deported.
Lasota, stressed and anxious regarding both his own and crewmembers’ predicament, was deprived of access to medicines which he had been prescribed on medical practitioner’s advice and, as a consequence, his health deteriorated, and he was temporarily admitted to a medical facility.
Under pressure from the local police, he was returned to prison after signing a declaration that the therapy provided would be continued. Later his condition necessitated transfer to a private clinic, where he remained, under guard, for over one month before being discharged and returned to his cell.
During the last court hearing, the judge set a five-month deadline for the prosecutor's office to gather evidence to start the trial proceedings, which, according to the local court, may take up to two years. Lasota faces up to 20 years in jail.
“Lasota, Andy as he is known to his friends and colleagues, is not just another casualty of corrupt society. He is the personification of a Polish master mariner, having spent many years at sea, educating countless officers and other master mariners, never having neglected his duties and responsibilities and a highly respected and valued navigator, with an unblemished reputation,” says Rusinek. “It is his devotion to duty and adherence to procedures that contributed to his current plight.”
The full letter and petition are available here.