Eritrean citizens living in Jerusalem indicted for conspiring with Sinai gang to kidnap African refugees, demand ransom from their relatives living in Israel

Efrat Weiss

Published: 01.21.10, 14:29 / Israel News

An indictment was filed with the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Thursday against two Eritrean citizens aged 34 and 41, currently living in the city and suspected of extorting money from the relatives of refugees trying to cross the border into Israel, while holding them hostage in camps in Sinai.

The investigation has been ongoing for a number of months, and the gag order was lifted with the filing of the indictment, which carries charges of extortion.

According to the indictment which was filed againt Nagasi Habati and Fatawi bin Eziabahir, in some cases, refugees were kidnapped and taken to closed camps located near the Israel-Egypt border, where they were held against their will by members of the Rashaida clan and held at gunpoint for fear they may attempt to flee.

The refugees were held under poor conditions at the camp, with their hands and legs bound. They were also starved, beaten with various objects, giving electric shocks, and more.


Defendants in court (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

Upon their arrival at the camp, the kidnappers would question the refugees about their relatives in Israel, in order to demand ransom for their release. The captors would demands thousands of dollars for the release of a single refugee, and would threaten their lives in order to pressure the relatives in Israel into paying.

The two defendants conspired with the Sinai kidnappers and were the main link in the network that was used to extort ransom for refugees and help African citizens illegally infiltrate Israel.

$2,800, or kidneys

One of the cases outlined in the indictment is that of an Eritrean woman who left her homeland for Israel at the start of 2009 and was kidnapped in Sudan and held against her will with three other refugees with her arms and legs bound. Her kidnappers demanded she contact her family in Eritrea to have them pay ransom for her release. When the captors learned that her family could not pay the ransom, they sold her off and she was transferred to the camp along with other refugees. She arrived at the camp pregnant in December 2009, and was kept bound against her will. Her kidnappers threatened that if they did not receive $2,800 ransom, they would sell her kidneys.