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Eritrea Christians Die In Prison Camp, Nearly 3,000 Detained PDF Print E-mail
Written by Eric Leijenaar & Stefan J. Bos   
Wednesday, 21 January 2009 20:05

At 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.

Netherlands-based 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.

Authorities 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.

The 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.

The 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.


Eritrean 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 last year.

Most of those detained are described as "Bible-believing Christians" who are active in evangelical and Protestant movements, Open Doors said.

Advocacy 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.

Even within those churches leaders have complained off harassment: In 2006, the government removed Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonios from office.


Human 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.

The 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.

It 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."

Eritrea's 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.

And, US officials cited "reports of forced recantations of faith and torture of religious detainees, who were held in harsh conditions."

Asmara 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


Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 January 2009 20:15

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