Handcuffed for Two Years

Deborah Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari, captured in late 2010 from a yacht off the coast of Tanzania,  were handcuffed throughout the nearly two years they were held by Somali pirates.

Freed kidnap victims were handcuffed for two years by pirates

A South African woman and her Italian partner were handcuffed throughout the nearly two years they were held by Somali pirates, who fed them little but rice, pasta and bread, the freed couple said yesterday after arriving in South Africa.

Deborah Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari, captured in late 2010 from a yacht off the coast of Tanzania, spoke to reporters at Johannesburg airport.

They were freed in Somalia last week and stopped in Italy to see Mr Pelizzari’s family before coming to South Africa, where friends and relatives draped in yellow ribbon greeted them at the airport with tears, hugs and flowers.

“We were treated like untouchables” in Somalia, Ms Calitz said. “We were treated worse than animals at times.”

“We weren’t fed very well and we were handcuffed permanently, all the time, 24 hours. We weren’t allowed to bathe much.

“We had one and a half litres of water a day between us, that was for the toilet as well. It was just terrible.”

The two were held captive 20 months, among the longest periods hostages have been held by Somali pirates.

Relatives have said the couple were sailing on a budget after buying a used yacht several years ago to pursue a dream of travelling the world’s seas. At the time they were kidnapped, they were working for another South African yachtsman to earn money for a visit home.

The pirates originally demanded a ransom of $10 million (£6.4m). Their relatives in South Africa sought donations and organised concert fundraisers, and said the pirates kept changing their demand.

“Thank you for not giving up on us,” a tearful Ms Calitz told her friends and relatives. She also thanked the governments of South Africa, Somalia and Italy.

“We’re home! We’re safe! And we’re happy!” she said.

Ms Calitz said the couple did not know whether a ransom had been paid. Last week, Somalia’s defence minister said Somali security forces had helped secure the release. He did not describe it as a rescue, but would not say if a ransom was paid. Most such cases end with payment of multi-million dollar ransoms, which security experts say only inspires more hostage-taking.

South Africa’s foreign minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who met the couple at the airport, told reporters that the hostage-taking could end only once stability was brought to Somalia.

Somalia has been beset by decades of civil war, and its last fully functioning government collapsed in 1991, allowing piracy and other crime to flourish. In more recent years, al-Qaeda-linked militants have gained a foothold in the Horn of Africa nation.

Mr Pelizzari said: “We’ve created a rainbow nation in South Africa,We’ve got to do the same for the world.”

Source: Scotsman

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