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Jailed Eritrean Poet, Asrat, Wins Prestigious International Writer Of Courage Prize4 minutes read

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Amanuel Asrat, an Eritrean poet who was arrested in September 2001 by the government of the East African country and has not been seen since then, has won the International Writer of Courage 2020.

PEN Pinter Prize 2020 winner Linton Kwesi Johnson announces Asrat, who is believed to be incarcerated at maximum-security prison, as the winner of the prestigious award.

The Writer of Courage is awarded to someone who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs.

Johnson made the announcement in a live online event hosted by the British Library on Monday 12 October.

Asrat was the editor of Zemen newspaper as of the time he was arrested 19 years ago amid a crackdown on government critics in his homeland.

His brother addressed the online ceremony on Monday and one of his poems was read out.

He was recommended for the award by the Jamaican-born British poet Linton Kwesi Johnson.

Asrat is also the first featured writer in PENWrites – English PEN’s international letter-writing campaign in solidarity with writers in prison and at risk around the world.

Asrat is credited for the Eritrean poetry resurgence of the early 2000s. An award-winning poet and songwriter, his writings detailed the daily life of the underprivileged and explored themes of war and peace. Unlike wartime Eritrean poetry popular at the time, he depicted the negative side of conflict.

In addition, Asrat co-founded a grassroots literary club called ‘Saturday’s Supper’ in 2001. Similar literary clubs soon started to emerge in all major Eritrean towns.

Linton Kwesi Johnson was chosen as the recipient of the PEN Pinter Prize 2020 by this year’s judges: The Guardian’s Associate Editor for Culture Claire Armistead; Dialogue Books Publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove; and author Max Porter.

The judges said: ‘Linton Kwesi Johnson is a poet, reggae icon, academic and campaigner, whose impact on the cultural landscape over the last half century has been colossal and multi-generational. His political ferocity and his tireless scrutiny of history are truly Pinteresque, as is the humour with which he pursues them.’

Linton Kwesi Johnson comments: ‘Keeping a citizen incarcerated, incommunicado, without charge or trial for nearly 20 years is the kind of egregious brutality that we associate with totalitarian states and dictatorships. As a gesture of solidarity from a poet of the African diaspora, I have chosen the Eritrean poet, songwriter, critic, and journalist Amanuel Asrat as the Writer of Courage for 2020.’

Daniel Mebrahtu, Amanuel Asrat’s brother, says: ‘We, the family of Amanuel Asrat, are very pleased, honoured and humbled to accept this award on behalf of our son and brother, Amanuel Asrat. Many thanks to English PEN and Mr. Linton Kwesi-Johnson. Amanuel is suffering under the harsh conditions of the Eiraeiro dungeon in Eritrea for 19 years and counting. His whereabouts are not known. We don’t even know whether he is alive or dead. We wish Amanuel was aware of this prize and honour somehow. We ask the international community to intervene in his case and other prisoners of conscience in Eritrea, and demand their immediate release. Thank you for the recognition, for your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your constant support. We really appreciate it.’

Former winners of the PEN Pinter Prize are: Lemn Sissay (2019), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2018), Michael Longley (2017), Margaret Atwood (2016), James Fenton (2015), Salman Rushdie (2014), Tom Stoppard (2013), Carol Ann Duffy (2012), David Hare (2011), Hanif Kureishi (2010) and Tony Harrison (2009). Former International Writers of Courage have been: Befeqadu Hailu (2019), Waleed Abulkhair (2018), Mahvash Sabet (2017), Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury a.k.a.Tutul (2016), Raif Badawi (2015), Mazen Darwish (2014), Iryan Khalip (2013), Samar Yazbek (2012), Roberto Saviano (2011), Lydia Cacho (2010) and Zarganar (Maung Thura) (2009).

Announcing the launch of PENWrites

Ahead of their centenary in 2021, English PEN has launched a year-long letter-writing campaign, inviting supporters around the world to send messages of solidarity to writers of courage and their families. Amanuel Asrat is the first featured writer in the PENWrites campaign.

Cat Lucas, Writers at Risk Programme Manager at English PEN, says: ‘We are honoured to be able to recognise Amanuel Asrat and his work with the PEN Pinter Prize for an International Writer of Courage 2020. We remain hopeful that this year will finally see him released and reunited with his family after almost two decades apart. In the meantime, we hope that our PENWrites campaign will provide an opportunity to raise greater awareness of his situation, to amplify calls for his release, and to continue to show our support for him and his family.’

For decades, PEN has campaigned on behalf of writers who are unjustly persecuted, harassed, imprisoned, and even murdered in violation of their right to freedom of expression. PEN members have long supported fellow writers by sending messages of solidarity and the impact of this simple act cannot be underestimated.

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#EndSARS: Miscreants Raid Prisons In Ondo, Delta States, Releases Inmates

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Violence in Nigeria continued on Thursday with suspected miscreants raiding at least two correctional centres and setting prisoners free.

Armed thugs reportedly attacked a police station in Asaba, the Delta State capital. The hoodlums also allegedly raided the Warri Correctional Centre – Okere Prison – in the Warri South Local Government Area of the state, shooting sporadically.

The police station was reportedly set on fire.

The hoodlums reportedly moved to the Police Special Protection Unit in the area in an attempt to set it ablaze but were repelled by security personnel there.

It was also learnt a protest was currently ongoing at Oleh in Isoko South Local Government Area of the state by young persons, who have barricaded all major roads leading in and out of the community.

Recall that the office of the Federal Road Safety Corps along the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha Expressway and the beautification garden at Koka Junction, Asaba, were on Wednesday night set ablaze by thugs.

State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, had on Thursday morning announced a 48-hour curfew across the state.

The governor also ordered the closure of all public and private schools in the state until November 2, 2020.

In Ondo State, hoodlums on Thursday broke into the National Correctional Service Centre in Okitipupa, the headquarters of Okitipupa Local Government Area and forcefully released the inmates.

It was gathered that no fewer than 58 inmates were released during the attack while a vehicle was burnt.

It was also learnt that several items were destroyed on the premises of the prison.

Also on Monday, an attempted jailbreak at the Ikoyi prison in Lagos was foiled by the security forces. Videos shared online showed smoke billowing from parts of the prison while inmates were seen running.

The prison authorities called for reinforcements and they said that no prisoners managed to escape.

Earlier in the week, hundreds of inmates escaped a correctional facility in Edo State after it was raided by suspected miscreant, prompting Governor Godwin Obaseki to declare a 24-hour statewide curfew.

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Group Lambastes Egypt Over Execution Of 49 People In 10 Days

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Egyptian authorities executed 15 men convicted for alleged involvement in three cases of political violence as well as 2 women and 25 men convicted in criminal cases between October 3 and 13, 2020, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday.

In a statement, the rights group asks the Egyptian Government to immediately halt executions, and re-try those sentenced to death in grossly unfair trials.

According to HRW, 13 of the 15 men charged with political violence had been held in Cairo’s Scorpion Prison.

Their executions follow a suspicious incident inside Scorpion’s death row ward on September 23 in which Interior Ministry forces killed four prisoners after those prisoners killed four security personnel. Authorities alleged the prisoners were trying to escape, the group said.

“Egypt’s mass executions of scores of people in a matter of days is outrageous,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“The systematic absence of fair trials in Egypt, especially in political cases, makes every death sentence a violation of the right to life.”

The government typically does not announce executions, or even inform the prisoner’s family.

On October 13, the pro-government Al-Masry al-Youm newspaper published the names of eight prisoners executed in the Maximum-Security Prison in Minya governorate, south of Cairo, including a woman.

On October 6, pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said authorities in Cairo Isti’naf Prison carried out 11 executions, including a woman, convicted in criminal cases.

Al-Watan reported on October 3 that authorities executed eight prisoners and on October 8 another seven in Alexandria, in murder and rape cases.

The independent Al-Shehab Center for Human Rights published on October 7 the names of 15 people it said authorities had executed on October 3. Ten had been convicted in the South Giza Case 3455 of 2014, known as the Ajnad Masr (Soldiers of Egypt) case; three in the North Giza Case 4804 of 2013, known as the Kerdasa case; and two in the East Alexandria Case 6300 of 2013, known as the Alexandria Library case.

The Kerdasa and Alexandria Library cases stem from violent events coinciding with the August 14, 2013 violent dispersal of the largely peaceful Rab’a sit-in protesting the army’s removal of President Mohamed Morsy, a day in which security forces probably killed over 1,000 protesters.

The Kerdasa case involved violent protests and an armed attack by a mob on the Kerdasa police station, killing its warden and 12 other Interior Ministry officers and soldiers, and mutilating an officer’s body.

A terrorism court sentenced 183 out of 188 defendants in a grossly unfair mass trial.

The Cassation Court, Egypt’s highest appeal court, overturned the ruling in February 2016 and ordered a retrial before a different terrorism court, which in July 2017 sentenced 20 to death, 80 to life in prison, acquitted 21, and sentenced the rest to long prison terms.

The Cassation Court upheld these sentences in September 2018. Seventeen of the 20 sentenced to death remained on death row.

Nine leading Egyptian human rights organizations said in a 2018 statement that authorities ignored basic fair trial guarantees, including access to legal counsel and the need to establish individual criminal responsibility.

In the Alexandria Library case, authorities charged 71 people following violent protests near the library and killings of 16 people, including an officer and two soldiers, in different incidents.

In September 2015, a criminal court in Alexandria sentenced three defendants to death, one of them in absentia, and the rest to prison.

The Cassation Court upheld the death sentences in July 2017 and acquitted four defendants. Human Rights Watch reviewed 66 pages of the case file comprising the indictment and the evidence, mainly unsubstantiated allegations by security officers with scant material evidence that two executed, Yasser Shokr and Yasser al-Abasiery, were responsible for the killings.

In the Ajnad Masr case, authorities charged about 45 defendants of involvement in armed attacks by Ajnad Masr, an extremist armed group, which claimed responsibility for several attacks in 2014 and 2015. In December 2017, a Giza terrorism court sentenced 13 to death, others to prison terms, and acquitted 5. In May 2019, the Cassation Court upheld the sentences. Three people from this case remain on death row.

Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt has become one of the top 10 countries for executions and death sentences. Those arrested for alleged political violence frequently face a host of abuses including enforced disappearances, torture to extract confessions, and no access to lawyers. In an examination of 28 death sentence cases since 2016, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights found that authorities had forcibly disappeared 198 people, and 212 said they had been tortured. The majority of those sentenced to death were convicted in military or terrorism court trials that do not meet fair trial standards.

Authorities routinely add dozens, sometimes hundreds, of defendants to a case without justification. Mass trials, which became the norm after 2013 in political cases, do not allow sufficient time to present a defense or to establish individual criminal responsibility.

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I Did Not Take Direct Orders From Governor Sanwoolu- Seyi Tinubu

Samagbeyi afolasade

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CEO of LoatsAD media, Seyi Tinubu has again issued a statement to debunk rumours of him taking orders from Sanwoolu to specifically turn off the billboards of LoatsAD.


Few hours ago, Seyi Tinubi, the son of APC national leader and ex-governor of Lagos state released a statement that revealed that they shut down their billboard at the Lekki Toll gate based on the directives and the curfew order put in place by the State governor of Lagos state- Baba-Jide Sanwoolu, however some media organizations have taken this out of context to mean that he switched off the Lekki toll gate billboard on Sanwo-Olu’s order.


”Following our earlier post detailing what transpired at the Lekki toll gate yesterday, we would like to address the sensational headlines making the rounds.

Like every other business in Lagos and in compliance with the curfew issued by the Governor, we told our staff to leave all our sites at 3pm in order for them to adhere to the 4pm curfew issued. All news coverage around that period clearly show the billboard was off before 4pm (we will implore this to be verified).



All we operate is the billboard at this location and we have no control over the street lights or cctv.

When we were approached by the organisers of the protest to help them with power, we gave them unfettered use of our generator and ensured our technical staff was physically present to control the board for their use. And when the events were over he will leave at midnight.

On this occasion we were highly concerned about our staff members who live very far from Victoria Island. On no account will we have turned off our board on the same comrades we worked with throughout the entire period the protests were ongoing at the Tollplaza



Our hearts continue to go out to the victims and families of the tragic turn of events that have taken place. we are really heartbroken at the way things turned out and we pray our land is” healed by God’s grace”

This is the post Seyi TInubu put out and said was taken out of context, hereby, refering to the news of those organizations as fake, and their headlines as sensational, which he felt the need to readdress

”On Tuesday when the curfew was announced we heeded the governor’s warnings and didn’t want our staff in any danger, hence by 3pm our staff had been ordered to leave the site and the board was switched off based on the governor’s curfew request.

We had no idea what was going to happen and we feel the same aguish, pain and shock at the events that unfolded and our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and families of this ungodly act.

We believe in this movement and that it was the start of the change our generation needed to move our country forward and we will continue to support the youths of this great nation.”

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