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AMSTERDAM (IDN) - A Court in Amsterdam struck down Meseret Bahlbi lawsuit against Mirjam van Reisen, Dutch professor and human rights advocate. The judge found that she was not guilty of libel and slander and

AMSTERDAM (IDN) – A Court in Amsterdam struck down Meseret Bahlbi lawsuit against Mirjam van Reisen, Dutch professor and human rights advocate. The judge found that she was not guilty of libel and slander and that the youth party of the Eritrean regime can be seen as a means of collecting intelligence abroad. The decision comes as a huge relief not only for the Dutch professor, but also for the Eritrean diaspora across Europe.

When the case was heard on January 27, 2016 in Amsterdam the focus was more about the nature of the regime in Eritrea, and the role played by its supporters in Europe. The court room was packed to overflowing, mostly by Eritreans from the diaspora in Europe. The majority came to support Mirjam van Reisen. She was being sued for libel and slander by Bahlbi, an Eritrean residing in the Netherlands.

Although the legal action centred on remarks made by the professor on Dutch radio, it quickly became apparent that this case was about more than the comments. On February 10, 2016, the judge ruled that van Reisen had no case to answer and awarded damages against Bahlbi in her favour. The ruling ensured that opinions based on research and evidence would not be muted, and should not be silenced by those who disagree.

Although certainly not the crux of the matter, it is important to understand the background of the case. On May 21, 2015 van Reisen expressed concern that two interpreters for the Dutch Immigration Office were siblings of the “centre of the Eritrean intelligence in the Netherlands”.

Bahlbi’s name was not mentioned during the interview for BNR Nieuwsradio, but he felt it was clear that the statemented referred to him. This is because Bahlbi is the former head of the Young People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (YPFDJ) in the Netherlands, a nationalist Eritrean Diaspora youth organisation connected to the Eritrean ruling party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).

Following van Reisen’s comments, Bahlbi filed a legal action for libel and slander. In the judgement, the judge declared that van Reisen’s statements were warranted and that she had provided sufficient evidence of the facts.

In the Amsterdam court room, both the prosecution and the defence spent little time debating the facts of what was said. Instead, arguments centred on the relationship between the YPFDJ and the PFDJ, conditions in Eritrea, why so many Eritreans were fleeing their country and the existence of the Eritrean secret services in the Netherlands.

Van Reisen’s lawyer strove to show that the YPFDJ was the “eyes and ears” of the Eritrean regime. The court’s decision accepts this to be the reality. A common headline across Dutch newspapers was De lange arm van Eritrea, or the ‘long arm of Eritrea’. The arm not only refers to intelligence gathering, but also to intimidation. UN personnel, journalists and van Reisen herself have all been subjected to intimidation from members of the YPFDJ because they have drawn attention to the human rights abuses perpetrated by the regime and its supporters.

Interpreters are a crucial part of the Dutch immigration service, and yet their direct access to political refugees makes them a valuable asset for a repressive and secretive Eritrean state. Information given to interpreters during the asylum process can prove costly for relatives and friends back home. Such interpreters are also in a position to twist the meaning of what is being said. Regulations are in place to ensure that the integrity of interpreters is beyond doubt. They are screened to check that they and their family members are not connected to the Eritrean regime. Questions remain regarding how interpreters with clear connections to the Eritrean regime were employed in the first place.

Professor van Reisen has expressed her relief that the judge ruled in her favour, but also expressed concern and continued to advocate for those fleeing from and suffering in Eritrea. She told the Dutch press “I now know what it feels like to be Eritrean” having witnessed the legal and less than legal attempts to silence her. Overjoyed with the news of her judgement, van Reisen posted on Facebook: “victory to all justice seekers. Together we will continue to pursue the truth.”

The court’s decision sends a strong message – the Netherlands is an open democracy where evidence based criticism is legitimate. The rule of law, democracy and freedom of speech, values that the EU and the Netherlands stand for, have been defended. Values which Eritreans do not enjoy in their own country. [IDN-InDepthNews – 10 February 2016]

IDN is flagship of the International Press Syndicate.

Review overview
  • Wedi fre February 11, 2016

    Congratulations to the justice seekers as a whole.
    What a shame to Wedi Bahlibi and his spie masters.
    What a paradox, using the democratic right to silence justice and the given human right!!
    This is the democratic right that the justice seekers ste looking for and wadi Bahlibi is trying to stop.
    For Meseret it is ok to exercise your democratic right but it is sin to be exercised in Eritrea and Eritreans.
    For Mesret, Eritrea is like Thailand during the Vietnam war. It is a place were he buys cheap sex for his desperate sisters who are the daughters of our heroes and selling themselves due to the misery created by his lovely dictator.

  • ahmed February 11, 2016

    The guy was probably fooled by pfdj to sue her. Let’s see if they help him now to pay the damage. Did I hear on dafla’s interview the ypfdj actualy admitted about pfdj abuse in eritrea..if true the statement will not do him well and they may throw him away. He had more damage to them than good. Did he realy expect to get 25000 euro. KKK

    • Hager February 11, 2016

      Only such drama would occur in HGDEF world. Indeed let’s see if higdefawuyian will toss him into the garbage can or help him with his bills.

      What a selfish individual he is. He wants freedom and justice for himself but deny the eritrean people the same basic.

      HGDEF got exposed.

  • Lemlem February 11, 2016

    Congratulations, Congratulations, Congratulations, Congratulations, Congratulations,Mirjam van Reisen!

    The prayer of all Eritrean Mother is always with you my dear sister.
    I have said in my previous comment that Mr. Meseret Bahlbi is digging his grave in a foreign country who gave him the right to live and work, but the changed his true colour. “He bites the hands that feeds him”
    No it is our turn brother if the court does not get you the Eritreans people will get you soon.


  • Adulis February 11, 2016

    Viva rules of law! I am very, very happy for you professor Miriam. This very decision from the heart of Europe heralds the beginning of the end to The Asmara regime. If it is beaten in Europe, stay tuned, it will be also beaten in Asmara.And that will be, for Sure, the End of the film/movie.

  • Concerned Eritrawi February 11, 2016

    Congratulations professor! People like Meseret make us Eritreans as if we are ungrateful selfish and sellouts people. I just want say that majority Eritrean people are not like him. We have few who are totally lost and don’t even have their mind. They are sold to the devil i Asmara. They are totally forgetting where they live and what set of rules to play with. They are just advised and controlled from Asmara. Every national that these sellouts live the country they live in should watch out for them. These people are ungraetful and have no idea since they do not understand the rule of law. This will be a wake up call for many.

  • Daniel Joseph February 11, 2016

    This moron wedi Bahlibi has lost the case and his ugly mouth is dry poor guy he was thinking to open Enda Tehannit abb Addi being Super haghere sebb

    • Hager February 11, 2016

      Come on now, what is wrong with being from Hagereseb? I am one from such place like many Eritreans.

      Now is he opportunist? You beat
      Is he selfish? You beat
      Is he HGDEF political prostitute? You beat

  • Tes February 11, 2016

    Victory to the people! I am so very happy that justice has prevailed. Meseret should be deported back to Issaias. Let Issais give him what he should deserve.

  • sidi abdu February 11, 2016

    Bahlibi is only the front as an accuser. The main force behind the law suit was the ruling thugs of Eritrea and his followers. It beats me why would some people continue to be hypnotized and don’t realize what is happening around them. Eritrea is in distress, its people are in distress and a few individuals are making a seen in the Western European court system to justify that Eritrea is Sweden and Issias is Thomas Jefferson. Oh my god, this people are trying to hide the sun using their hands. One thing is clear: Eritrea will come out of this hell whole eventually. However, the sooner every one realizes the less time it will take to heal.

  • Aman February 11, 2016

    Excellent news! This is a significant achievement for Eritreans to witness the brutality of the regime being exposed by non-Eritreans. It is also an engraved lesson for the regime that its brutality and systematic network of intimidation and torture is no more local but international human right issue. History will always remember Mrs Mirjam van Reisen, for her contribution to educate the world about what is going on inside and outside Eritrea by the tyrannical regime. I wonder about the kind of lesson its blind supporters in diaspora could learn from this daytime credible expose. Again, “victory to all justice seekers. Together we will continue to pursue the truth.”
    Congratulations to the people of Eritrea!!
    Congratulations Mrs. Mirjam van Reisen!!

  • Tewolde T. February 11, 2016

    It is really Great news. By the way did I hear that meserets siblings (Abraham and Nazreth) have followed his suits to Sue a Dutch authority and demanded 80000 euro in total in compensation?

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