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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 12:15 GMT
Eritrean student leaders released
Traffic in Asmara
Students were kept in scorching conditions
By Alex Last in Asmara

The last five students who were held in detention after the end of the summer work programme have been released.

A total of 12 students had been held back at one of the sites of the work programme in Gala 'Alo in eastern Eritrea.

Students in Asmara
Two students died in the desert camp

Diplomatic sources say all were members of the student union executive disbanded after several hundred students were arrested in August following protests at the detention of the student union leader, Semere Kesete.

He was detained in late July after criticising the summer work programme and government interference at the university.

Two students are known to have died during the programme, in Eritrea's inhospitable eastern desert.

Dissident links

A total of 2,700 were sent to the desert following the protests.

Almost all the students were returned to Asmara in September, except the members of the student union executive, who were detained.

It had been reported that the student leaders were questioned about links with the group of leading dissidents, who have been detained without charge since September.

There has been no official confirmation of the reports. The president of the university, Dr Woldeab Isaac, has not been available for comment.

The university has remained quiet and there have not been further protests since the students returned from the desert.

See also:

02 Nov 01 | Africa
Eritrea critic denies conspiracy
13 Feb 01 | Africa
Eritrean brain drain row
17 Apr 01 | Africa
Eritrea pulls out of buffer zone
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Eritrea
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