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

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has spoken on the phone with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi in an effort to obtain the release of a Polish traveler who was sentenced to life in prison in the vast Central African country on espionage charges, an aide said Monday.

The 52-year-old Pole, Mariusz Majewski, was detained by Congolese forces in February and 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 is a militia group that has been involved in intercommunal violence in southwestern Congo since 2022.

Majewski was convicted last week and sentenced to life in prison. No details were released as to where he is 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, Poland's Foreign Ministry spokesman 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 it was due to a chain of coincidental circumstances and events that he found himself 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 will 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 are among those arrested.