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[DEHAI] EPLF's ? short questioning ? Petition for the Release of Reported Prisoners in Eritrea

--------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Leteab Tewolde" <>
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999 13:39:40 CEST
Subject: Petition for the Release of Reported Prisoners in Eritrea
Message-ID: <>

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

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 [1993], 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


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. 

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