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Americans detained in Honduras now free, heading home

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(CNN) -- Six Americans imprisoned in Honduras for more than a month on charges they attempted to smuggle weapons into the country are now free.

A family member of one of the former captives and a U.S. congressman, who had traveled to the Central American nation to inquire about the Americans, said Thursday that the men were out of prison and headed home.

"It is with great pleasure I am able to announce the safe release of the six Americans wrongfully imprisoned in Honduras," Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican, said in a statement.

"The crew of the Aqua Quest -- including the son of one of my constituents -- is in the process of traveling back to the United States and being reunited with their families following the ordeal."

The Americans were in Honduras to work with local officials in the impoverished, rural municipality of Ahuas to remove valuable mahogany logs from a nearby riverbed, remnants of decades of logging. Profits from the sale of the recovered logs would be split between the salvage company and the municipality for a social project there.

But this project ended abruptly with their arrest May 5, after Honduran authorities boarded their ship and discovered a couple of handguns, two shotguns and a semiautomatic rifle.

The ship's captain, Robert Mayne, told CNN by cell phone from his prison cell that the weapons were for protection against piracy while at sea.

"Everyone tells us this would never happen in any other port in Honduras," he said earlier this month, expressing his frustration with the judge's and state prosecutor's interpretation of the law. "We have the right to do it (carry arms) for protection on the high seas."

His brother Stephen Mayne, who owns Aqua Quest International, said he received word Thursday that the charges against his brother and the rest of the crew had been dropped.

"Right now they are on their way to the boat," Mayne told CNN. "We're happy, but we won't celebrate until they are out of Honduran waters."

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