British Journalist Martin Plaut was assaulted by an Eritrean government supporter on Friday, 30th November at the British Library in London, United Kingdom. The Eritrean, Yacob Ghebremedhin, was later arrested and charged by police for his unlawful actions.
Mr. Gebremedhin is married with three children. By his own admission, he was planning to repatriate to Eritrea on Tuesday 4th December, and had planned to assault Mr Plaut before doing so. In a live online chat, he said he attacked Mr. Plaut because he wrote ill about Eritrea and called its President ‘dictator’.
Martin Plaut is Senior Researcher fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. He was the Africa Editor of the BBC World Service News until 2013, and has written about Eritrea for many years.
Mr. Gebremedhin planned his assault for weeks. He attempted to get Martin Plaut’s home address, but could not find it, and finally, managed to find his contact number and pretend to know someone who had valuable information on the human rights situation in Eritrea. He requested to meet Mr Plaut, and he planned his assault with two accomplices, Mr. Alula Abraha and Mr. Daniel. While Mr. Gebremedhin was assaulting Mr. Plaut the two accomplices were filming the assault, and later posted the videos on social media.
It is clear that his ethical stand on the activities of the Eritrean regime has angered them, possibly because it his revealed the truth about the Eritrean government’s activities.
In the context of the attacks by foreign agents on the Scripolls in Salisbury earlier this year, it is important to state publicly the total unacceptability on the United Kingdom soil of such unprovoked attacks by an Eritrean government supporter on a journalist and a British citizen.
Moreover, the following tweet by Ambassador Estifanos Afewerk, Eritrea’s Ambassador to Japan, the day after the incident regarding what is essentially an unjustifiable assault within the sovereign territory of another state implies approval on the part of the government of Eritrea.
— Ambassador Estifanos (@AmbassadorEstif) December 2, 2018
The Facebook message below is by Mr. Sirak Bahlbi, an Eritrean diplomat in charge of Public and Community Affairs at the Eritrean Embassy in Sweden. Mr. Bahlbi is calling Mr. Gebremedhin “the Eritrean Hero” for assaulting a British journalist.
Furthermore, first hand video evidence obtained by Human Rights Concern Eritrea (HRCE), and Facebook postings by Eritrean government supporters confirm they are planning to attack and assault on several human rights activists in the diaspora, including HRCE’s UK-based director, Elizabeth Chyrum and Meron Estifanos, who lives in the Sweden. The supporters say that now that sanctions against Eritrea have been lifted, their next mission is to physically assault and silence anyone who criticizes the Eritrean government or write ill about the Eritrean President.
In Facebook and Paltalk chat rooms, the Eritrean government’s supporters have praised the assailant as a hero and are eager to go out and attack government critics and activists.
It is hardly necessary to remind the world that extra-judicial attacks, torture and killings of innocent citizens by the regime occur frequently in Eritrea. It was perhaps because Martin Plaut has so often revealed the truth about such violence and killings by the Eritrean state that he is the subject of such hate and aggression by the regime and its supporters.
The aggression and violence which is the hallmark of the Eritrean government, and which was clearly condoned in a tweet by its diplomats, must not and cannot be tolerated in the UK.
The following messages shared on Facebook live by government supporters are exemplar of what will occur routinely in the UK if action is not taken to appraise Eritrean government supporters in no uncertain terms that their actions s will not be tolerated in a democratic society.
From the government supporters’ FB, live messages:
“Wedi Memhir (real name –Beteab Tsegay) from the UK, brother-in-law to Yacob Gebremedhin (Martin Plaut’s assailant… There is one issue I would like to tell you. To all the people of One-Heart, to Eritreans with solid principle, whether you are inside or outside the country, this [the attack on journalist Martin Plaut] is the beginning, and not the end. We thank you all. We also thank Mebrat. There is nothing to be concerned about.
Henok Lubona Temesghen Metkel (real name Habtegaber)… from, Lugano, Switzerland…Ok, thank you Wedi Memhr. We also tell to all the people of One-Heart, we are on your side. We are ready to provide anything that is required of us.
Wedi Memhir (real name –Beteab Tsegay) from, London, UK, brother-in-law to Yacob Gebremedhin (Martin Plaut’s assailant) …. As I told you before, this is only a spoon from the sea. Eritrea’s priority is successfully accomplished. The sanction has been lifted. What comes from now on is a feast fight. Those who speak bad thing about Eritrea in Facebook and online Live broadcasts, those we call them Krdad (weeds), we used to ignore them. In fact, we didn’t ignore them per se, we were just busy with our first priority. Now our first priority is accomplished. The next step is to clean the Krdad (weeds). The action has already started with Martin. We announce that it is time to take appropriate measures against those who have been engaged in badmouthing Eritrea.
Henok Lubona Temesghen Metkel (real name Habtegaber) …from Switzerland: Thank you, Wedi Memhr. Don’t forget to tell Yacob about it. Have fun guys!. (Yacob is the person who attacked journalist Martin Plaut in London, UK).”
Clearly, Eritrean government supporters intend to unleash a wave of terror targeting dissidents of Eritrean dissent and Western and other journalists around the world simply for writing truthfully about the human rights situation. If ever there was an indication that nothing has changed in Eritrea with regard to human rights, this is it. To forestall it the international community must leave the regime and its supporters in no doubt that this exportation of violence and terror will not be tolerated, and that anyone indulging in it will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
8 December 2018