My ordeal in Haiti: ‘It was not good that they hijacked the boat’

When Rene Pélleaux was abducted as he worshipped in the Edouard Ndémé church in 2010, it brought Haiti in its deadliest week. But he managed to contact the French broadcaster and Times of Israel…

My ordeal in Haiti: 'It was not good that they hijacked the boat'

When Rene Pélleaux was abducted as he worshipped in the Edouard Ndémé church in 2010, it brought Haiti in its deadliest week. But he managed to contact the French broadcaster and Times of Israel about his ordeal before being released

Joseph Pélleaux went for a Sunday service with three other priests and a young man at the Edouard Ndémé church in Port-au-Prince on 3 October 2010, a day before the powerful earthquake struck. He was seized for ransom.

Joseph Pélleaux: an email from a clergyman kidnapped in Haiti Read more

Now 39, Pélleaux believes it was the largest kidnapping in Haiti’s history, and the scariest experience of his life.

On Friday the Fédération des Judes, or the Front for the Defence of Liberties, a Catholic human rights group in Haiti, released a video of Pélleaux showing his appearance in hospital. The video is the first contact from the priest, who was released in 2011, in seven years.

Pélleaux had sent emails from behind bars about his ordeal to agencies including the Times of Israel and the French journalist Brittany Klippel, and to Arlonny Gillon, a Coptic priest released in October 2011, who was teaching him Greek.

Joseph Pélleaux holds up his hands after he was freed from captivity in 2011. Photograph: Courtesy of Brittany Klippel

During an interview for CNN on Sunday evening, Pélleaux said: “It was not good that they hijacked the boat they are on now.” He explained why he didn’t have a bulletproof vest when he was abducted.

“There was no real gunfire, but it was like you don’t want to die of fear. I really did not want to die of fear, so I had a shield, I put it over my head. That is what I had.”

He said he was wrongly imprisoned for two weeks before he was returned to hospital to recover. He went into hiding in the mountains and never left Haiti until Gillon was released.

“The damage to me was so much,” he said. “I can’t tell you exactly how much I still have to recover from it. It took years for me to get my confidence.”

He said his confidence had returned gradually after “months of healing”. He said he wanted to go back to the school in which he works in the north of Haiti but was unable to do so due to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Pélleaux praised the Unicef and Conseil d’Etat anti-trafficking units, who were involved in finding him.

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