least two detained Christians have died this month in Eritrea after a
"long period of torture" in a notorious military prison camp, while the
number of Christians jailed in the African nation because of their
faith approaches 3,000, a well-informed Christian rights group said
Wednesday, January 21.
Open Doors, which has close contacts with reportedly persecuted
Christians in Eritrea and around the world, said Mogos Hagos Kiflom,
37, and Mehari Gebreneguse Asgedom, 42, died "most likely" at the
beginning of January.
have apparently refused to give more details or to allow an independent
autopsy. "The two died in the Mitire-Camp; Asgedom died in an isolation
jail," Open Doors told BosNewsLife.
reported deaths of the two men brought the total number of Christians
dying in detention to at least eight, however "it is possible
that more Christians have died," as part of a major crackdown on
Christian activities, Open Doors added.
Mitire Camp, located in north-west Eritrea, is a "new military
concentration camp" notorious for abuses, the advocacy group said. It
was reportedly set up especially for accommodating Christians.
church leaders in comments released by Open Doors said 2907 Christians
are now known to be detained in Eritrea, up from roughly 2,000 reported
of those detained are described as "Bible-believing Christians" who are
active in evangelical and Protestant movements, Open Doors said.
groups claim many have been held in military camps, as well as shipping
containers, police stations and other facilities.
Since May 2002 only the Eritrese Orthodoxe Church, the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches are allowed as part of government efforts to crackdown on Christian activities, several advocacy groups said.
within those churches leaders have complained off harassment: In 2006,
the government removed Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonios from office.
rights group Amnesty International attributed his removal to his
criticism of alleged state interference in church activities, including
a crackdown on several evangelical Christian movements popular with
some young Eritreans.
government has dismissed the allegations, saying it was an internal
Church matter. Eritrea also condemned human rights organisations and
the United States, who regularly accuse authorities here of religious
persecution, especially against unregistered evangelical congregations.
"The government severely restricts freedom of religion for groups that it has not registered and infringes upon the independence of some registered groups," the United States State Department said in a recent report.
also said the Eritrean government continues to "harass, arrest, and
detain members of unregistered minority religious groups" while seeking
"greater control over the four approved religious groups."
Government allegedly also "failed to register religious groups, and it
restricted religious meetings and arrested individuals during religious
gatherings." It also detained people refusing to serve in the military
for religious reasons, the State Department said.
US officials cited "reports of forced recantations of faith and torture
of religious detainees, who were held in harsh conditions."
has denounced such reports as "fabrications" and "childish plots by
colonialists" using religious issues to "create division and conflict"
in a bid to weaken the country.
Posted at BosNewsLIfe on 21 Jan 2009