Eritrea's Government Involved In Attacking Rights Activists Abroad, Group Claims

Monday, April 13, 2009

By Worthy News Staff

ASMARA/ROME (Worthy News) -- Christian rights activists have expressed concerns over the alleged international efforts by Eritrea's government  to intimidate opponents of its policies, after an Italian human rights defender was seriously injured when Eritrean government supporters apparently threw rocks and bottles at her during a demonstration in Rome.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in a statement monitored by Worthy News Monday, April 13, the incident happened while Maria Daniela (Dania) Avallone was "peacefully protesting at an Eritrean-government sponsored event."

She was expected to face a Rome court on April 15 after Eritreans with apparent links to the perceived autocratic government accussed her of referring to the Eritrean president as "a dictator", continually "disturbing" Eritrean government sponsored events in Italy through protesting, and "insulting" the organizers in Italian and Tigrinya, an Eritrean language.

"The charges stem from an incident that occurred last year on October 26, when around fifty Eritrean government supporters pelted human rights activists who were picketing an Eritrean festival that was opened and attended by the Eritrean Minister of Defence," CSW said. "During the assault Ms. Avallone lost consciousness after a stone struck her in the kidneys, and was kept in hospital overnight for observation."


The legal complaint against Avallone was ostensibly brought by "the Eritrean Community in Italy,. however, "signatories to the complaint are said to include at least two members of the Eritrean diplomatic entourage," CSW said.

CSW Advocacy Director Alexa Papadouris said it was "utterly deplorable that Ms. Avallone should face a legal battle for exercising her legitimate right to peacefully protest.  The charges against her would hardly constitute a credible legal challenge in a court of law in any democratic society and the entire case seems redolent of harassment."

Papadouris said CSW has renewed its call to the Italian authorities "to speedily bring those responsible for assaulting Ms Avallone and other human rights activists to justice".

The latest developments come amid international concerns about the government's crackdown on political dissidents and Christians in Eritrea itself. Some 3,000 Christians have been detained in prisons across the country, rights groups say. Eritrea's government has denied human rights abuses.