TAMPA (FOX 13) -
The captain of the Aqua Quest, an international underwater salvage company, said he's terrified of the outcome of their gun-smuggling charge appeal.
Captain Robert Mayne spoke to FOX 13 on the phone from the Honduran jail he and five other crew members have been in since May 5th.
Mayne said their case has moved out of Puerto Lempira, the town where they've been held since early May, and to La Ceiba, another town, hundreds of miles away. An appeals court of three judges will get their case sometime next week, the captain said.
"I'm terrified of the prospect of justice in this country," Mayne said. "We're at their mercy to do what's right, and I don't know if they're going to do what's right."
The crew is accused of smuggling weapons into Honduras, a charge Mayne calls ridiculous. They left Tarpon Springs May 1st on a business trip tens of thousands of dollars in the making to Ahuas, Honduras. They were to work on coastal zone management, dredge a river, and start developing a water processing plant for the small community.
When they arrived to port in Puerto Lempira, law enforcement boarded their boat, detained six crew members and accused them of smuggling guns into Honduras. Admittedly there were several weapons on board: Two hand guns, two shotguns and an M70ab2, which looks like an AK-47. Capt. Mayne's brother Stephen explained why.
"These are pirate-infested waters, and there aren't many prudent mariners that do not have defense weapons," Mayne said. Since their arrest Mayne says they've had one visit with US Embassy officials.
Flanked by two FBI agents on May 19th, which Capt. Mayne called "friendly", the diplomatic team told the crew members they were monitoring the situation, which is consistent with the same statement issued to the media earlier this week. Mayne explained why he thinks they remain locked up.
"What we believe happened is that they saw an opportunity. They saw a wealthy boat of Americans, and they pounced on us," Mayne said.
The captain said they refused to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which prohibits businesses from paying bribes to government officials in other countries.
"A U.S. company can be prosecuted in the United States for paying bribes to government officials," he said.
They've had two court appearances since being detained: one 46 hours after their arrest and another six days later which Mayne described as a "mini trial." During that mini trial, Mayne said, "I could see the handwriting on the wall what was happening." Since then, they've sat in what crew members describe as deplorable conditions.
Mayne said, the first night, he was in a jail cell 12-feet wide by 12-feet deep with 15 other inmates without a bathroom.
The crew is getting three meager meals a day consisting of spoon fulls of rice and beans.
"We're in a bad situation and we should've never been detained, we should have never been arrested," Capt. Mayne said.
Since they have money, they're able to buy more food, but the funds are running out.
The appeal is expected to be heard in La Ceiba next week.
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