By BosNewsLife Africa Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Time was running out Thursday, November 22, for an abducted Christian Eritrean man in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after his kidnappers told him to pay $25,000 or face “organ harvesting” and be killed, he and Christian rights activists said.
“If they don’t get the money, they will kill me in five days,” explained 25-year-old Philemon Semere, who has been held for three months, in published remarks.
Semere is among several refugees and migrants from the Horn of Africa, who are abducted and abused by people traffickers in Sinai, added advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in a statement to BosNewsLife.
He escaped from Eritrea, where at least over 2,000 devoted Christians are detained for their faith in prison facilities ranging from shipping containers to military camps, according to human rights groups.
The young man reportedly arrived in the Adi Harish Refugee Camp in Ethiopia in 2010, where he sang in the church choir.
TRYING REACHING ISRAEL
Early in 2012, he traveled to Sudan attempting to reach Israel, but was abducted by Rashaida traffickers and taken to what CSW called “one of several torture and extortion facilities in the Sinai.”
Semere was allegedly beaten and abused regularly by captors who asked him to find $33,000 to ensure his release, or lose a kidney.
“In October, Semere was moved to another facility where he was subjected to electric shock torture, amongst other things. This morning his captors informed him he had five days to either produce $25,000 or lose a kidney,” CSW said.
“Our heartfelt prayers are with Philemon Semere as he faces this horrific ultimatum,” added CSW’s Special Ambassador Stuart Windsor.
ALLEGED ABDUCTION, TORTURE
“The abduction and torture of human beings for profit and the illegal traffic in their organs is one of the most abhorrent forms of modern slavery and an appalling affront to human dignity,” he told BosNewsLife.
Rights groups began documenting the alleged abduction, torture and extortion of refugees such as Semere in purpose-built facilities in Sinai since 2010.
They say hostages are generally bound for extended periods, deprived of adequate food, given salty drinking water and tortured using extreme methods, including electric shocks and branding.
Friends and relatives are obliged to listen via telephone to their screams and pleas for assistance, according to investigators.
WOMEN ESPECIALLY TARGETED
“Women are particularly vulnerable to abuse, including gang-rape. Some hostages have been used as slave labor. Initially, demands for payment ranged between US$3000 and US$8000, but have increased enormously,” CSW said in its report to BosNewsLife.
When payments are not forthcoming, vital organs are illegally harvested in unhygienic conditions, generally resulting in the death of the person concerned, rights activists say.
Windsor said CSW has urged the Egyptian authorities to act “decisively” to rescue Semere and others in his position, “and to combat trafficking by ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice.”
Analysts say security has deteriorated in Sinai since the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, though Egyptian authorities say they are aware of the situation.
SINAI’S BIBLICAL ROOTS
Sinai, believed to have been crossed by the Biblical patriarch Abraham and centuries later Israel’s leader Moses followed by Mary, Joseph and Jesus, remains of strategic importance for Egypt.
West of the peninsula lies the Suez Canal, a crucial waterway for global oil shipments and trade from Asia to Europe and beyond.
To the north, Sinai shares a volatile border with Israel and the Gaza Strip, and to the east with Jordan and Saudi Arabia, countries which are of strategic importance to both Egypt and the rest of the region, analysts say.
Windsor stressed that he realized it wasn’t easy for the central government to tackle human trafficking in this fast territory, though activists claim the situation has gotten worse because of the country’s alleged harsh treatment of African migrants trying to enter Egypt.
“We also recognize that trafficking is an international crime that spans national borders, and therefore call for concerted international action to bring this appalling phenomenon to an end,” Windsor said.