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Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 21:26 GMT 22:26 UK
Eritrean dissident set for return
President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea
Hagos used to be Afewerki's comrade-in-arms
By Alex Last in Asmara

Leading Eritrean dissident Mesfin Hagos has announced that he intends to go back to Eritrea, despite expectations that he will be arrested on arrival.

He made the statement in a letter published on the internet site, though he did not give a date for his return.

The people have not got the chance to listen to our opinion and the government's opinion and judge which is better

Mesfin Hagos
Two weeks ago the government arrested 11 out of a group of 15 leading dissidents, including former ministers and generals who had criticised the rule of President Isaias Afewerki.

Three of the group, including Mesfin Hagos, were out of the country at the time of the arrests.

Old-fashioned dictator

Though there have been no formal charges yet, the government media has accused them of treason and endangering the security of the nation. A charge of treason can carry the death penalty.

Eritrean woman
Many Eritreans are dependent on aid

In his statement, Mesfin Hagos rejected the accusations and said that all the dissidents were ready to face any charges in an open court.

He said he would work in Eritrea for the establishment of democracy, the respect of human rights and respect for the constitution.

He also accused the Eritrean president of becoming an old-fashioned dictator.

Founding member

Mesfin Hagos was one of the founding members and leading commanders of the Eritrean liberation forces which now run the country.

He was defence minister before being made governor of Eritrea's southern region.

At the time of the arrests he was in the US receiving medical treatment.

The government has rescinded his diplomatic passport which is certainly likely to delay his return.

His decision to return is certainly brave and is generally admired, though many think that he will share the fate of the other dissidents who are detained and have no contact with the outside world.

Mesfin Hagos
"I am not better than my 11 colleagues"
See also:

02 Oct 01 | Africa
Eritrea plays down diplomatic row
21 Sep 01 | Africa
Concern over Eritrea detainees
19 Sep 01 | Africa
More reformists held in Eritrea
18 Sep 01 | Africa
Eritrea silences critics
31 May 01 | Africa
Dissent surfaces in Eritrea
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