Dauntless: Pelizzari goes back to repair his yacht

2012-11-01 00:00

THE Durban couple freed from the clutches of Somali pirates have been spared a face-to-face reunion with their abductors.

Debbie Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari have spent the week in Netherlands helping to secure jail terms for five pirates.

Last year, a criminal court in Rotterdam found the five guilty of snatching Calitz and Pelizzari from a yacht in October 2010 and sentenced the men to various jail terms of up to seven years.

An appeal was launched by the Somalis and, taking no chances, Dutch prosecutors arranged for Calitz and Pelizzari to appear this week and testify. Yesterday, Pelizzari said they were prepared to confront their attackers.

“It might not be necessary, though,” said Pelizzari, and asked if they were ready to do it anyway, he said: “I’d say so. Both of us are pretty ok with it.”

On Monday, Pelizzari testified briefly in Rotterdam. Despite media reports to the contrary, the case was not before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Yesterday, the couple were due to visit The Hague where the ICC is based, but Pelizzari was unsure if they would be needed.

“Everything has happened behind closed doors. We can’t say anything.”

Pelizzari said they were being treated well and after their departure tomorrow he would return to Dar es Salaam to continue working on his abandoned yacht. He expected his “labour of love” to last several months. “I haven’t even looked at the sails yet.”

Calitz and Pelizzari were with skipper Peter Eldridge on his yacht Choizil on its way to Richards Bay when the group of Somali pirates struck.

Eldridge refused to leave his vessel and the pirates contented themselves with taking Calitz and Pelizzari, who spent the next 20 months as their captives while ransom negotiations were taking place. Both were released three months ago.

At the sentencing last year, Judge Jacco Janssen was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying: “During the attack on the Choizil, extreme violence was used. The crew thought their last hour had arrived.”

Eldridge’s testimony helped put the pirates behind bars.

The couple’s story is now finished and 20 Months of Hostage Hell, published by Penguin, goes on sale at the end of November.

Calitz said that the process of writing had helped her deal with memories of the ordeal.

“I must say it has closed me.”

After the suffocating humidity of Somalia, Calitz said she was enjoying the cold European weather.

The Witness spoke to the duo as they were leaving the South African embassy where they had been invited.

Calitz said that they were on their way to lunch and a spot of sightseeing was also on the cards before their departure tomorrow.

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