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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Congo Detains 3 Sailors

Three Russian sailors have been detained by Congolese authorities on charges of killing a local resident and face the death penalty if convicted, the Russian Embassy in Kinshasa said Monday.

The Russians are suspected of beating and throwing overboard four Congolese citizens who had snuck aboard their ship, the Panama-flagged bulk carrier, Island of Luck, in hopes of immigrating to another country, an embassy spokesman said by telephone.

Congolese authorities claim that one of the men drowned at sea, the embassy spokesman said on a customary condition of anonymity.

The sailors, who maintain their innocence, face the death penalty if convicted of murder, the spokesman said. The embassy was negotiating the fate of the Russian sailors with local authorities Monday, he said.

The embassy was also maintaining contact with the sailors to make secure that local authorities did not violate their rights, he said.

The Island of Luck was seized at the Congolese port of Matadi on Oct. 20, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Confusingly, the statement also said the suspects in the killing were six Ukrainian members of the ship’s crew. Ministry spokesman Igor Yevdokimov couldn’t elaborate on the statement, saying he had no additional information.

The ship has a 23-member crew comprised of 15 Ukrainians, four Russians, two citizens of Myanmar, a Ghanian and an Indian, said Pyotr Osichansky, a Vladivostok-based spokesman for the International Transport Workers’ Federation, RIA-Novosti reported.

Osichansky said one of the crew members called his wife based in Vladivostok and asked her to file requests for help with the Foreign Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s Office, Interfax reported.

A faxed request for comment to the Prosecutor General’s Office went unanswered Monday.