June 9, 2011

PRESS RELEASE

The Eritrean Foreign Ministry has issued a Press Release on 7 June 2011 regarding the British nationals “detained in Eritrea” for the crimes and offences they committed against Eritrean sovereignty.

It is to be recalled that the Ministry in its press release of 8 April, 2011, noted that, on this issue, it refrained from delving into diplomatic, propaganda, press and PR campaigns, thus handling the matter with utmost prudence and patience, and that it would release detailed facts in due course.

The full text of the Press Release follows:

Crimes of the British Institution PVI and its members in Eritrea
Christopher Alan Collison, is a British national who claims to have been working as facilitator of Protection Vessels International (PVI) in Djibouti. Concealing his real identity, he requested an entry Visa from the Eritrean Embassy in Djibouti on 13 December 2010 for visiting Eritrea disguised as a tourist. Accordingly, he was granted the entry Visa, and arrived at Asmara International Airport on 17 December 2010.

The following day, 18 December 2010, Collison left for Massawa hiring a taxi with plate number ER-2-02315. And on 19 December 2010, he got in touch with Finan Shipping and Port Services Corporation requesting that it serve as an agent to facilitate in supplying a tourist vessel with food stuff and fuel. He informed the corporation that the vessel departed from the UK and was passing through Egypt en-route to Djibouti, and that it had run out of supplies. On the basis of Collison’s fabricated account, after the legal procedures were met, a boat called SEA SCORPION, along with two speed boats called RED and GRAY RIBS, arrived in Massawa Port carrying 6 British ‘sailors’.

During their stay in Massawa Port until 23 December 2010, Collison and the 6 sailors disguised as tourists claimed to have carried out repair work on one of the speed boats called GRAY RIBS, while loading the boat with food and fuel supplies. After conducting discussion on ways of securing payment either in cash or bank account for the services rendered by Finan Shipping and Port Services, they produced a document confirming payment made by a British bank and informed them that the sum had been sent through Western Union. As Finan Corporation needed confirmation of the payment made through the Bank of Eritrea on the one hand and due to the fact that those institutions that provide clearance had their office hours closed on the other, it was decided that both sides arrange a reschedule for 7:00 a.m. the next morning. However, that same evening at 19:30 p.m., the 6 sailors and Collison himself who entered the country after acquiring a tourist visa made an attempt to flee Massawa using the SEA SCORPION as well as the speed boat RED RIB turning off lights and without securing any legal clearance whatsoever. After having traveled a distance of almost 3 nautical miles, they were given warning shots by members of the Eritrean Navy to stop. Thereafter, while the SEA SCORPION (KN252) carrying 4 sailors heeded the call, the RED RIB speed boat with 3 sailors fled.

The SEA SCORPION was brought under control. Following intensive search conducted on the GPS and computers of the boat as well as sailors, a number of still and moving pictures, as well as information messages were obtained that confirmed the violation of Eritrea’s land and maritime sovereignty. On the basis of the information thus acquired, a search was conducted on the Eritrean Island of Romia, where a cache of sniper weapons fitted with silencers, telescopes, distance-monitoring equipments were secured. Moreover, night vision binoculars equipped with GPS, together with poison-tipped bullets, bullet-proof vests, specialized communication equipments, as well as V-SAT satellite telephones were seized during the search. The Island of Romia is an Eritrean island located 30 nautical miles inside sovereign Eritrean territorial waters.

All the British nationals in detention fully admitted that they “have committed a crime in having illegally and repeatedly entering sovereign Eritrean Island as well as violating the country’s territorial waters bearing armaments, in addition to attempting to escape from Massawa”. And in doing so, they expressed regret for their actions. Besides, they have repeatedly and strongly pleaded for amnesty for their criminal acts. As for Collison, the PVI representative in Djibouti who had legally acquired entry Visa to Eritrea disguised as a tourist, admitted that he had committed a crime by posing himself as a tourist and trying to escape from Massawa illegally by boat.

Outcome of the Investigation
Concerning PROTECTION VESSELS INTERNATIONAL (PVI)

PVI is one of the many emerging armed institutions claiming to be engaged in anti-piracy activities. It is an organization mainly based in the UK and owned by a British national named Domenic Mee, a former member of the British Royal Marines. He claims to have more than 200-strong employees, the majority of whom are themselves former members of the British Royal Marines. Besides, some are civil seamen.

PVI owns the following 4 ships and an unspecified large number of speed boats:
1. AL 345 flying the British flag
2. AM 230 flying the British flag
3. DM 234 flying the British flag
4. KN 252 (SEA SCORPION) flying the Egyptian flag

While the 3 PVI ships carry the British flag, KN 252 SEA SCORPION operates with the Egyptian flag. When it entered Massawa Port and later was seized trying to escape, it was flying the Egyptian flag. This fact represents a deliberate cover-up in view of the fact that a vessel entering Eritrean territorial waters with an Egyptian flag is regarded as being more acceptable and logical.

It is on record that PVI bought SEA SCORPION in Alexandria, Egypt, on 07/2010 and that it underwent repair and test in the Egyptian port of Hurgada; it entered Port Sudan on 11/10/2010, in addition to taking about a month to have a new generator installed in it, thus subsequently embarking on conducting activities from its permanent deployment, i.e. (17o N to 18o N) in mid-November 2010, and pursuing its routine work in the Red Sea. This has been confirmed by documents secured and testimonies obtained from the accused parties. (17o N to 18o N) are coordinates that stretch from Bab Adem (50 km South of Marsa Teklai) to Ras Kesar.

Crimes committed by PVI against sovereign Eritrean territorial waters and islands

1. On 22/11/2010 an unknown number of PVI members entered the Island of Romia (16o24’N and 40o 05’E), located 30 nautical miles inside Eritrea using the RED RIB speed boat. The crew conducted intensive surveillance, during which they took video footage of the entire island. Moreover, 2 PVI members entered the island with a view to identifying a suitable spot for anchor, the vegetation of the island and possible sites for cover, as well as prospects of potable water sources. All relevant information they acquired was transmitted via radio, and the footage they compiled in the process is documented as evidence.

2. The PVI members anchored the speed boat named GRAY RIB at Romia Island on 25/11/2010. (The film shots the group compiled are documented as evidence.)

3. The documents obtained from the group have ascertained that the owner of PVI, Domenic Mee, docked at Romia Island on 26/11/2010 through the ship SEA SCORPION and the speed boat RED RIB along with an unspecified number of armed members and other support personnel.

4. On 30/11/2010 a 10-member armed group and other support staff headed by Domenic Mee, using the ship SEA SCORPION and the speed boat RED RIB invaded the sovereign Eritrean Island of Romia staging tactical military maneuvers and in possession of various types of weapons, thus staying there for a number of days. These activities are on record by the still and moving pictures they took on 30/11/2010. What’s more, the accused themselves have confirmed their encampment on the island.

5. The PVI carried out repeated acts of espionage and intelligence work on Harmil Island which is located 31.38 nautical miles inside Eritrean territorial waters through its ship AL-345 and the speed boat RED RIB. In an electronic mail he addressed to members of the SEA SCORPION dated 12/12/2010, Domenic Mee, relayed information concerning the outcome of the spying activities undertaken and his observations about the island. He also sent out information that the speed boat RED RIB was spotted by members of the Eritrean Naval Force, in addition to the fact that their AL-345 ship made a speedy escape thereafter. Domenic Mee further warned the SEA SCORPION staff to strictly avoid passing through Harmil Island during their journey to Massawa, in view of the fact that RED RID was spotted by members of the Eritrean Naval Force near Harmil Island on a previous occasion, and that it should not be identified as being an integral part of the SEA SCORPION ship. He further warned the crew of the need to exercise caution taking into account the possibility that members of the Eritrean Naval Force are likely to possess communication facilities. These acts conclusively prove that the PVI has carried out acts of espionage on sovereign Eritrean territorial waters and islands. (The necessary documents along with concrete evidence are available.)

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