CAMPAIGNERS in Scotland joined international efforts to raise the plight of journalists imprisoned for more than a decade in Eritrea.
Seyoum Tsehaye was amongst writers and reporters detained without trial in a 2001 crackdown by President Isaias Afewerki, who remains in office today.
Seven years after his imprisonment, a prison guard fled the country and reported that the father was still alive. However, there has been no information about his welfare or whereabouts since then and it is unknown if Tsehaye is still alive.
Yesterday free speech activists staged a demonstration at Glasgow University to raise awareness of his story and of human and civil rights violations in his country.
The Afewerki regime has been met with strong criticism from human rights groups for the treatment of its citizens, which includes indefinite military service, strict control of the media, arbitrary detention and torture and a shoot-on-sight policy for anyone caught trying to cross the border without permission.
Despite that, thousands of Eritreans leave the African nation every year, including unaccompanied youths, many of whom attempt to claim asylum in Europe.
Eritreans are currently one of the largest groups of asylum claimants in the UK, with Scotland’s Eritrean community concentrated in Glasgow.
Members of the One Day Seyoum (ODS) campaign set up empty chairs to represent the journalist and ten others imprisoned around the same time, with four women standing in for those who, as of 2008, were reported to be alive.
Further actions are expected in the US and Sweden, where members of Tsehaye’s family live.
Swedish national Ellinore Folkesson, chairperson of ODS Glasgow, became involved through her friendship with the prisoner’s niece. She said: “Freedom of speech is one of the most important freedoms that we have. It is an international issue.
“What has happened in Eritrea shows what can happen when those freedoms are not protected.”