Home arrow English arrow Articles arrow SENAIT DEBESSAI: SENSELESS IMPRISONMENT 5 YEARS ON
Friday, 14 November 2008

Aida Kidane, Sweden
Ermias Debessai and Senait Debessai were peacefully living in Asmara like everyone else when they were picked up the security services in the middle of the night from their home. That was November 15, 2003 and their whereabouts is unknown, they have not been charged or sentenced, nor have they been seen by anyone.
Days, weeks, months and years pass by with no news. This is a huge burden to their loved ones who just keep waiting for some news, hopefully good news. Their children are the most to suffer silently not understanding the reason for their parents’ imprisonment. This is not an isolated case, it happens to   thousands of prisoners and their families who are losing hope by the day.
 I am writing about these individuals because I was close to them and I know deep in my heart that they are innocent and hence the injustice. . I knew the very nice and cheerful Meriam Hagos in Asmera who was also a fighter to liberate her beloved country and this was how they repaid her - imprisonment! I knew Aster Tesfatsion, (she was the cousin of Ermias and Senait) and her husband Mahmoud Sherifo who had a son and is probably an orphan as there is a rumor that the parents died in detention.
I knew Alazar Mesfin who disrupted his studies from the University in Addis Abeba to join the struggle in 1975.He served his country in the finance department very honourably. He was taken away from his work during his break time and disappeared since.
Dawit Isaak is still imprisoned for no probable charge and is not forgotten by Eritreans in Sweden and the Swedish officials. Some people say that Dawit’s case may not be regarded as important by the officials here because he is not a Swede by blood. It is the Eritrean government who is deaf to reason. We have a woman minister who is originally from Rwuanda and I have lived in Sweden for more than 30 years to state that it is one of the most progressive and equal rights for all citizens.

I never met Aster Yohannes but her case has been widely reported and she and her husband Petros Selomon have children, four of them, who are growing up with both parents in prison. The children of all of them have come of age very likely confused because their parents were freedom fighters and after years of service are incarcerated and treated as criminals by the present government.
Their imprisonment of the G-15 was unexpected .It was rumoured that it was inevitable and some members were aware of the precarious situation they were in and could easily have escaped by leaving the country. In August 2001, Abdella Jaber came to Sweden and in one meeting I asked him what mandate they had to imprison the reformers. His answer was that they had some ‘Marshal’ law, which I did not know.  As anticipated, the reformers were taken away September 11and 12, 2001 along with about 60 others.
Injustice happened in earlier years and there is an example that I can tell from my own experience that took place in 1993. One day in that same year I lost some money that I had in my house. I casually mentioned this to a police friend of mine. In answer to his question I told him that a person from Tigraye was the house cleaner.

  My police friend then took me to a shop where a clerk who is paid a few dollars wrote a type written claim with words I never said. My friend then took me to the 1st police station and told me to sign my name and present it to an officer. I said the words are too strong and I had no intention of charging the man without proof. They convinced me it was common procedure and that we were to be asked and talk about it. I accepted and went my way.
 A day or so later, several military uniformed men came to my place and asked where the worker Zerabruk was, and he was cleaning the garden. I showed them and they told him to follow them. Since I was responsible to the worker I asked why they needed to take him with them. One of the men said it did not concern me. I felt uneasy and the men reminded me of the infamous Affan of mid 70s in Asmera who picked people into disappearance.
The worker did not return home or the next day and more. So, I went to AGIP police station asking about him. I was not given any answer that I kept going there also as it was near where I worked.
  Zerabruk’s wife with her small children came to Asmera which made me suffer more. She lost contact with him and came to get information. None of us succeeded into knowing more. I gave her all money I had for compensation. I was then told he was freed and she went away that I was not sure what had happened to him.
A few months later, a Tigrean young girl age 13 or 14 disappeared from the home of a relative Dr Michael Gebre Hiwet. Thanks for his diligence, he found her almost unconscious on the cement floor of AGIP prison, and was yellow from jaundice.
 Dr Michael picked her up and just carried her out of the prison walking directly to the hospital. He personally medicated her back to health. That was a heroic deed indeed. When she was safe enough and regained her health, she went to some relatives to rest.
About a month later, I saw her collecting water in a hotel near our home. We greeted and she told me she was very worried as she was called to court in a few days’ time. She knew what her odds were and asked me if I could appear in court with her. I agreed with pleasure as I had Zerabruk’s memory still fresh.
I then told four media co-workers to accompany me to see how justice works for everyone. We went with her to the court which is situated lower floor of the (former?) office of the president, facing the Enail hospital.
  The judge was concerned to see us and asked us who we were. We told him we were only observing but he kept looking at us with unease. He then heard her case and judged her free to go. I felt so relieved.
The same happened to Ermias and Senait Debessai, Miriam Hagos and many others. Now, there is no court for them to appear to, no one to care for their health or visit them. They are not charged nor seen! Damn Isayas!

13 November 2008

For more information look at the website dedicated to Erimias and Senait Debesai (by Rusom Kidane)

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