Eritrea: reporters “died in custody”?

From IRIN, Nov. 16:

NAIROBI – Three Eritrean reporters who have been in detention in a remote northeastern jail for five years are believed to have died in unclear circumstances, a global media freedom watchdog reported.

Reporters Without Borders, which has written to the Eritrean government seeking an explanation, said on Tuesday that the three were being at a place called Eiraeiro. “Dozens of political prisoners have disappeared into jails run by the armed forces,” it added. “They include at least 13 journalists, of whom there has been no word for nearly five years.”

Eritrean officials, who declined to comment on the report, have in the past denied allegations that the country holds political dissidents.

According to Reporters Without Boundaries, Eiraeiro, in the Sheib subzone of the Northern Red Sea administrative region, holds at least 62 political prisoners, including former ministers, senior officials, high-ranking military officers, government opponents and eight of the 13 journalists held since a round-up in September 2001. The journalists were captured by the police after the government decided to “suspend” all Eritrea’s privately owned media.

Nine of the detainees at Eiraeiro, the watchdog added, had died as a result of “various illnesses, psychological pressure or suicide”. Detainees in the prison are chained by their hands, sleep on the ground without bed linen, have their heads shaved once a month and are let out of their cells for an hour a day without being allowed contact with other prisoners, Reporters Without Borders said.

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