2018 Eritrea: Amanuel Asrat

WORLD POETRY DAY 2018: Amanuel Asrat, an award-winning Eritrean poet, critic, songwriter, and editor-in-chief of the leading newspaper Zemen, meaning The Times, has been detained incommunicado since he was arrested at his home on the morning of 23 September 2001 amid a crackdown on state and private media. Other independent journalists, opposition politicians and students were also arrested during the crackdown. It is believed that Asrat and the other journalists have neither been charged nor tried. PEN International believes that Asrat’s ongoing detention is an attempt by the Eritrean government to stifle critical voices, including calls for establishing constitutional government.  Norwegian PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee calls for his immediate release and the end to violations of freedom of expression in Eritrea.

Oslo, 21st of March 2018

Your Excellency
President Isaias Afewerki
Office of the President
P.O. Box 257
Asmara, Eritrea

Your Excellency
Minister of Information
Hon. Yemane Gebremeskel
P.O. Box 242
Asmara, Eritrea

Today, on World Poetry Day, our thoughts are with poet Amanuel Asrat, who has been incommunicado for over 16 years. Asrat was arrested at his home on the morning of September 23rd 2001 amid a crackdown on state and private media. Other independent journalists, opposition politicians and students were also arrested during the crackdown. It is believed that Asrat and the other journalists have neither been charged nor tried.

Asrat is thought to be among the few surviving journalists from the 2001 crackdown, alive but in deteriorating health. Unconfirmed reports allege that some of the journalists have died, having been subjected to torture or other ill treatment, including lack of access to medical care.

Together with our PEN colleagues worldwide we call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Asrat. We call for his immediate release and the end to violations of freedom of expression in Eritrea. We also ask for immediate clarification of the fate of all detained journalists and immediate release of those still alive.

Yours sincerely,
Mr. Øivind Hånes
Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

Copy:
Embassy of the State of Eritrea, Stockholm
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs