Twenty years on – imprisoned without trial, but never forgotten: Matheos Hanteab

In the wake of the tragic failure of Eritrea’s 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia, senior members of the Eritrean government began a campaign to bring about the democracy that the 30 year war of liberation had been fought for.

They formed the G-15: men and women who challenged President Isaias to give the Eritrean people the freedoms they had been promised. In dawn raids on 18 and 19 September 2001 the president’s notorious security forces rounded them up and jailed them. None have ever been taken before a court or convicted of any crime. They have rotted in prison ever since.

At the same time independent newspapers were closed and journalists arrested. The nightmare of repression which has hung over Eritrea ever since had begun.

Now, on the 20th anniversary of these terrible events, we recall those who have been in Eritrea’s jails ever since. Their families have been deprived of them; their friends have lost them. But they have never been forgotten. Nor has the flame of hope that they ignited – of a proud, free and democratic country.

We have profiles of these brave men and women – and will share them daily.


Matheos Hanteab Eritrean Political PrisonerMatheos Hanteab was a journalist working in Asmara.

According to PEN Eritrea, among his colleagues and readers, Matheos was known for his courageous stand, his refined editorials and as a person who speaks the truth to power.

Matheos was a conscript in the Eritrean Defence Forces at the time of his arrest on 23 September 2001 and he is believed to be held at the infamous Ira-Iro prison without the dues process of the law to defend himself.

Nothing is known about his health or wellbeing is, and whether he is alive or dead.

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