--------- Forwarded message ---------- From: "Leteab Tewolde" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: Freweini1@juno.com Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999 13:39:40 CEST Subject: Petition for the Release of Reported Prisoners in Eritrea Message-ID: <email@example.com> Dear Freweini, I obtained from friends your petition and the moving story about the fate of your brother, Teklebrhan. I was impressed by your courage and perseverence in asking justice for political prisoners in Eritrea, including that of Wedi-Bashai about whom I heard many times. You asked Eritreans to support your petition. I do support it. I know some will not support you, because we have a strange breed of Eritreans who sing about «democray and justice » but shudder to think of practising them. By the way, I will take some of your time to tell you my family story of agony which is not much different from that of the Ghebresadick family. The message attached below, which summarizes the story, was addressed on 21 October 1993 to Amnesty International ( 1, Eaton Street , London WCIX 8DJ, UK) requesting their intervention on behalf of our family for our right to know as to what has happened to my father who was imprisoned by EPLF in Keren 21 years ago this month. Entitled « A CASE THAT DESERVES YOUR ATTENTION », the message stated as follows : Dear Sirs, I write this short note to you with the belief that it is time for an international human rights organization of your standing to look into some major human rights abuses in Eritrea so that injustices could be addressed at least partly in order to discourage their repetition in newly independent Eritrea. My father's case is one of the human rights issues deserving your keen attention. 1. My father, Tewolde Beyn (Beyene Asfedai) was taken for « a short questioning » by the security apparatus of the EPLF in Keren, Eritrea, in August 1978. He was 58 years old. 2. A short while later, the EPLF had to retreat from Keren and my father was reportedly taken to Sahel, northern Eritrea. As far as I can remember, the following police pensioners in addition to Idris Mohamed Abdala, alias « Echet Hina » (a Tigre ballad singer known for his pro-ELF songs) were taken to Sahel as prisoners: Embaye Ghebru, Ghebresadiq Ghilu'u, Melake Beraki, Ogbamichael, Fitwi Tesfazghi, Woldemariam Kelati, Berhane Hadgu, Ghebrehiwet Kinfe, Mohamed Omar, Negash Sibhat, Omar Bekhit, Hadgu Mana, Tenente Zaid and two others whose names I fail to remember. 3. Since then, our family received no authentic information about his fate. The same was true to the fate of Echet Hina and the retired members of « Police Abay », all of whom, feeling innocent and self-confident, dared to walk and hand themselves over to EPLF's security office in Keren after receiving invitations to report to the authorities for what was euphemistically termed as « short questioning ». An EPLF security chief, Teklai Aden, who deserted to Ethiopia in 1979 was at one point quoted to have said that about 16 police pensioners taken from Keren were hacked to death while the EPLF was withdrawing to Sahel. Many other rumours abounded concerning the fate of my father and his colleagues indicating that they were still alive in EPLF detention camps. My step mother and several uncles tried many times during the 1980s to know about his situation but to no avail. Three of my brothers and a sister were EPLF fighters, and at least one of them, Beyene Tewolde (martyred in Shoa in April 1991) told family members that our father was alive until mid-1984. No one was sure if he was telling the truth because the organization severely punished anyone who dared divulge its « secrets ». 4. Last August , authorities in the EPLF (the Eritrean provisional government) were approached by some members of the affected families only to be told that « those citizens were released from detention soon after our withdrawal from Keren, and thereafter, the EPLF knows nothing about them. This question should never be raised again, and those who repeat similar queries will face the consequences !» For our family, and the rest of other families, that cannot be fair response. They were detained by the front in broad day-light, and then they « disappear ». Their families have no choice but to keep waiting for their return home or be told by those who detained them as to what happened to them. 5. As you, Amensty International, may understand, my family members and I have been tormented for over a decade and half, and there seems to be no end to our anguish. I strongly feel that it is my human right and the right of all my family members to know as to what has happened to my father. If he was killed/executed for whatever reason, then we must know. Therefore, allow me to request you to kindly approach the Eritrean government (EPLF) and ask them on our behalf about the fate of my father. Hopefully waiting for your action and response, I remain. Sincerely yours Leteab Tewolde Beyn. ***** Dear Freweini, I am sure Amnesty International received my message, but unfortunaley, to this day, they did not give me any response. Freweini, if you are still reading me, I want to tell you this : my father, like Wedi-Bashai, was a man who contributed his part in the long struggle for Eritrea's statehood. It is sad to state that he disappeared, with other compatriots, without known charge brought against him. Many people knew that the police pensioners in the then EPLF-liberated Keren were travelling every two/three months to Asmara to receive their pension money. It is said that at one point, the Ethiopian authorities warned them that they will not receive the next payment unless they commit themselves to « report » about the situation of Keren under the « rebel » forces. The pensioners appear to have naively thought : « Ethiopia abey keybluwo. Hray endabelna drar-eletna nwsed. deqna yrduunayom.sewra keŽa bezi qolo-titiqo zeysmbdelu dereja betsihu eyu » It was soon after that fateful visit to Asmara and their return to Keren that the pensioners were detained. However, my father appeared to have had other problems with the EPLF. According to a lengthy and interesting article that I read in the June 1998 issue of « Demokrasiawit Eritra », my father publicly challenged EPLF's strongman, Isaias Afworki, at a huge public assembly at the « meda joko » of Keren. In his first address to the population of Keren after its liberation in 1977, Isaias slandered the ELF and warned those who were bent to continue their allegiance to that front. My father reportedly told Isaias that his speech was not constructive and that he better weigh his language in deference to the sacrifices made by that front in its long years of struggle for the same cause. For your further info, Freweini (if you did not have access to the above referred article), Tewolde Beyn was reputed among the early ELM/mahber-shewate members for having saved many lives from imminent death or life imprisonment way back in 1959-60 (living witnesses include long-time fighters like Omar Mohamed Yahya, and Omar Haj Idris). It was also reported that a number of ELA fighters were released from prison cells in Keren by misleading their interrogators with pieces of advice given them by my father. (E.g. two fighters in 1964 dared to take the bus from Ghinda to Keren where they were suspected and detained. They were advised to say that they were water porters in Om Hager and that the callosity shown on their shoulders was not caused by Abu Asheras of jebha but by the heavy water containers they carried at their workplace. My father was so much liked by the fighters that the ELF in 1970 asked the people to give their votes for Ethiopian parliamentary elections not to those pro-Ethiopian candidates but to Tewolde Beyn. Among latter-day events mentioned in the said article was the fact that my father took active part in the resignation of all 23 Eritreans in the Ethiopian parliament after the massacre of many Eritreans at Om Hager in July 1974. That resignation was widely reported in the international press and helped to give not only a much wanted attention to the struggle, but also encouraged many Eritreans to join their revolution. I am saying this to note that my father has never in his life been against Eritrea and its struggle. And whatever the charges against him, he deserved fair treatment and and trial, especially after 1975 when the Revolution was widely embraced by our people and when the liberation organizations were under no immediate threat by individuals who espoused different viewpoints. Good luck with the petition, Freweini. Whatever the outcome, you have done your part, and I congratulate you for that. (And you can of course share this story with dehai and other media to which you may have access.) Haftkhi Leteab Tewolde Beyn PS : I would wish that you and other human rights conscious Eritreans encourage Eritrean jurists to help establish a fact finding commission to investigage, at least for the recod, all human rights abuses not only of the Ethiopians against Eritreans but also of Eritrean organizations against their own people during the past four to five decades. That may help discourage at the present and in the future of any gross violations of human rights by Eritrean political actors, whether they are « legitmate » authorities or « illegal » opposition forces. ______________________________________________________ Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com/
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