Man imprisoned by Congo government is reunited with Lincoln family

The Pika family is happy to have their father back.

"The day we found out that our dad was being held captive it was like we were in a dream. I felt like this isn’t real, this can’t be happening. These are things you see on movies and TV shows, this can’t actually be happening in real life," said Audrey Pika.

Marcel Pika, 70, was imprisoned for nearly 500 days in the Republic of Congo. He was finally released last Thursday.

His family says he was arrested in the African country shortly after the election of 2016 for political reasons.

Their father was then thrown in a cell without any explanation or court hearing.

Marcel spent the last 21 months in conditions described as inhumane by his family.

The prison had no air conditioning to combat the African heat and each cell had dozens of men in them with no toilets or running water.

"From what we have heard from our dad there were no mattresses provided for all, so some people were sleeping on the floor. This is one place that doesn’t have, for one thing, running water," said Freddy Pika.

The prison was built during World War II to house around 150 men.

Marcel’s son Freddy said that the number of men staying there was closer to 900, many of whom were political prisoners of the country’s president.

After learning of what had happened to their father, the Pika family was unsure of what to do.

They ended up reaching out to many local politicians including Representative Jeff Fortenberry, Senator Deb Fisher, and Governor Pete Ricketts.

"We’re very thankful and it would be quite honestly a pleasure to visit with each and every one of them to really thank them in person because it really means a lot to us. Knowing that we are able to count on our beloved Nebraska to actually help us in this situation," said Freddy Pika.

After receiving the call that their father was to be released, the family was at a loss for words.

"I just couldn’t believe it. You kind of have to slap yourself and ask is this happening. My wife and I were in bed and she started crying, so the fact that I was in doubt and seeing her cry from joy kind of confirmed that yes, it is happening," said Freddy Pika.

The family is thrilled to have their father back, but Marcel’s imprisonment took a physical toll on his body.

The 70–year–old war veteran was a very active man, often walking over a mile to go fishing with his sons, now he struggles to climb stairs and lost a lot of strength due to malnutrition.

For the time being, the family is content.

"We are at peace for the fact that we know that he is back and safe and sound," said Freddy Pika.

Marcel has a doctor’s appointment scheduled in the near future.

He will undergo a physical examination to check on his overall condition following his imprisonment.