TESTIMONY: [from Crimes Committed in Zemene Isaias 2003]

?On January (Tiri) 23, 1997, with a secret order from Abraha Kassa, the chief of the National Security Office of Eritrea, and under the direction of President Isaias Afwerki, security forces rounded up 150 Eritrean Moslem men under the guise of being collaborators with the Islamic Jihad movements. They were picked from their homes and workplaces. News coming from Asmara has confirmed that, six months after they were taken in custody, with the knowledge of both [Abraha Kassa and Isaias Afwerki] they were executed on 18 June (Sene) 1997 from 8:20 PM to 2 AM the next day. With due considerations for the security aspects of this information, we will release a follow-up [on the news].? ? January 23, 2003; TV Zete, Sweden

I was confined to a small cell. I was not allowed to meet other prisoners and was not allowed to go out in the sun. I was only talking to my guard. My hands were handcuffed behind my back for two weeks?.I would say I was in a better situation than others. Let me give you one example: Mehari tells me that a young man named Dejen Ande Hishel, an ex-student who grew up in the Revolutionary School [a school run by the EPLF during the armed struggle] and who was later a Mig-29 pilot and instructor after independence, was picked by two men from his work on March 18, 1999. Until July 2002, no one knew his whereabouts. He repeatedly asked [his jailers] what his crime was, why he was in jail and who brought him there; he never got an answer. His father and mother are combatants. His father is a lieutenant Colonel. His two elder brothers are also combatants-- that comprises the whole family. He never saw the sun. His family was allowed to visit him after [he spent] three years and five months in jail?. Where I was jailed, I know only few people: Feron Weldu, Hassen Kekya, Sunabera, Kuflom Gebremichael and Ali Alamin Ali (both worked for the American Embassy in Asmara), Ali Mohammed, Bitweded Abraha ?.Abdu Younis is in Karsheli. I also know of Aho Ali Aho, who is the Baito [regional assembly] Chairman of the South Red Sea Region; and Ali Issa Ali, Deputy Governor of the Port of Asseb. Unfortunately I don?t know where the reporters are jailed now. ? University of Asmara Student Union President Semere Kesete, Interview with Awate.com, 8/15/2002
When one is arrested, there is no record of who the arresting officer is, and what the charges against the arrested are. Often, the arresting officer is reassigned and, for years, the case of the arrested is forgotten. For example, there was an employee of the American Embassy who was there for two years in the Sixth Police Station?The arresting officers had no idea why he was arrested? They are landcruisers, they are sedans, they are different cars with five different license plates: civil, government, rentals, commercial and associations. They always tell the soon-to-be jailed, ?we need you for five minutes.? Four to five years later, the detainees often will wail, ?when they brought me here, they said they need me for five minutes!? These cars, some are tinted?Once, over 30 individuals were loaded up and they were executed (?ny hywet sgumti tewesiduwom?)after being tried by a committee. They never had a day in court. Another twenty eight were sentenced for several years and sent to Sembel? This was two days before 20th of June [Martyr?s Day]. June 18, 1997. -- An Interview With Mehari Yohannes, Interview with Awate.com; Mar 5, 2003

Respect for religious freedom continued to deteriorate during the period covered by this report. The Government harassed, arrested, and detained members of non-sanctioned Protestant religious groups locally referred to collectively as "Pentes," reform movements from and within the Coptic Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, and adherents of the Baha'i Faith. There were also numerous reports of forced recantations and physical torture. Only the four government-sanctioned religious groups--Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Catholics, and members of the Evangelical Church of Eritrea (which has affiliation with the Lutheran World Federation)--were allowed to meet freely during the period covered by this report. Following a May 2002 government decree that all religious groups must register or cease all religious activities, all religious facilities not belonging to the four sanctioned religious groups were closed. These closures and the restriction on holding religious meetings continued during the period covered by this report. -- International Religious Freedom Report, Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy and Labor [USA], 12/23/03

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