Israeli yachtsman said held by Colombian navy after encounter with pirates

Roy Erez, sailing to Jamaica, was forced at gunpoint by crew of local fishing boat to take on unknown passenger; vessel later boarded by soldiers, redirected to Colombia

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli sailor Roy Erez. (Facebook)
Israeli sailor Roy Erez. (Facebook)

An Israeli sailor has apparently been taken into custody by the Colombian navy after he was forced by pirates to take on a passenger in mid-ocean, his sister revealed.

In a Tuesday post to her Facebook page, Karina Erez Azoulay recounted the drama that befell her brother Roy Erez as he sailed from Panama to Colombia during a round-the-world voyage on his sailing boat.

Azoulay has been able to maintain contact with Erez, 39, using text messages sent via a satellite phone.

Erez, she said, had been in Panama where he visited the local Chabad house and agreed to take on two Israeli passengers. After three days of sailing, he dropped the pair off in Panama and then set off alone for Jamaica.

At some point while he was out at sea, a fishing boat, apparently operated by pirates, caught up with him and forced him at gunpoint to take on a man he had never met before.

“Fearing for his life, he was forced to agree,” Azoulay wrote in the post. Hours later, a Panamanian naval vessel stopped the yacht, while still in international waters, and soldiers boarded, taking Erez and the man captive.

“They are at the moment towing the boast to Colombia with six armed soldiers on board,” she wrote. “My brother is very worried by the aggressiveness used against him and what might happen to him when he reaches Colombia. He is caught in a hopeless situation and is very worried they will involve him in a matter he has nothing to do with.”

Azoulay said she has asked the Foreign Ministry to help, and also contacted Colombian authorities.

Erez has Israeli and German citizenship. His family has also contacted the German embassy in Israel.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “The consul in Bogota is aware of the details and is in contact with local people to check the details of the incident.”

Last November Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Colombia, where he signed a tourism cooperation agreement at the Narino presidential palace.

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