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Hostage couple to face Somali pirates

 Independent Online (IO)
By Rizwana Sheik Umar
Saturday, October 27, 2012

Netherlands - Durban couple Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz arrived in The Hague on Friday to testify against five of the men who hijacked their yacht – two years to the day after it happened.

Speaking to the Daily News on Thursday, Pelizzari, who was in Dar es Salaam, and Calitz, in Pretoria, were preparing for their long-haul flights to the Netherlands and the International Criminal Court.

They have not seen each other in two weeks, after Pelizzari returned to Tanzania to work on his boat

, the Arran. Calitz said she could not wait to see her partner: “I miss him,” she said.

Waiting for a taxi to ferry him to the airport, Pelizzari said he was apprehensive about testifying, “but once I get going I should be fine”.

iol news pic hostage couple arrive in SA 2

File photo: South African couple Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz,who were kidnapped by Somali pirates.

The couple will, in coming days, have to relive their 20-month ordeal, which began when they were taken hostage after their yacht, SY Choizil, skippered by Peter Eldridge, was taken over by Somali pirates off the Kenyan coast en route to Richards Bay from Dar es Salaam on October, 26, 2010.

Calitz said she was looking forward to seeing who the accused were.

“I would like to see who they’ve caught,” she said. “We don’t know if we’ll be in the same room with them. I don’t know what will happen when I’m in front of them. We’ll only know once we arrive there.”

Pelizzari is expected to testify at the International Criminal Court on Monday and Calitz on Tuesday.

The couple are due to leave the Netherlands next week: Calitz to Pretoria and Pelizzari back to Dar es Salaam.

“Yet another birthday away from my family,” said Calitz, who turns 50 on Wednesday.

Speaking for the first time since the couple’s release, Eldridge, in Brisbane visiting family, told the Daily News yesterday that he had been in the Netherlands when he had first heard they were freed.

Vera Hecht, Pelizzari’s sister who was the first to meet them on their release, had arranged a Skype chat for the trio, he said.

“I got to speak to them when they were in Rome. I think it was a day after they were released. They both sounded strong. I am extremely happy that they’re safe.”

At the time, Eldridge said he was sailing to Tonga and was unable to meet the couple in person.

“I will be back in South Africa in a couple of weeks and hopefully, depending on our movements, we can meet,” said the Richards Bay yachtsman. Eldridge said he recently found out that he had a brain tumour, and would seek medical attention when he returned.

Two years after 12 pirates pointed AK-47 assault rifles at him and his two crew members and threatened them with rocket-propelled grenades, Eldridge said he tried not to think too much about the events that followed.

“When people talk to me about it, of course the memories re-surface but time heals all things,” he said. “We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s no use constantly thinking about what you could’ve done differently.”

For two weeks they were anchored with their captors at an island. The French frigate, Floreal, detected the yacht, opening fire on it.

The pirates fled, snatching the couple. But Eldridge refused to leave his vessel. He managed to radio the frigate and was rescued, arriving back in South Africa in November 2010.

The SY Choizil, which Eldridge had built himself and sailed for 20 years, ran aground and is lying on a beach somewhere in Somalia.

Hecht had sent him a picture of the stripped yacht some time ago, he said.

Last November, Eldridge had his first sailing outing since the hijacking. “It doesn’t freak me out,” he said of taking to the waters again

Source: Independent Online


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