Thursday, September 4, 2014

In Eritrea thousands have been Imprisoned for Their Faith since 1991

A handcuffed prisoner being escorted inside a prison

Imprisoned for Their Faith

Eritrea arrests and imprisons Jehovah’s Witnesses and some other religious minorities without trial or formal charges. Witness men and women, including children and the elderly, are imprisoned for religious activity or for undisclosed reasons. Young men are imprisoned for conscientiously objecting to military service.
When Eritrea became an independent country in 1993, Jehovah’s Witnesses lost their fundamental freedoms. President Afewerki revoked their citizenship by Presidential Decree dated October 25, 1994, because the Witnesses did not vote in the 1993 independence referendum and they conscientiously object to military service. Since then, Eritrean security forces have imprisoned, tortured, and harassed Jehovah’s Witnesses in an effort to force them to recant their faith.

Indefinite Prison Sentences under Harsh Conditions

Three men, Paulos Eyassu, Isaac Mogos, and Negede Teklemariam, have been in prison for conscientious objection to military service since September 24, 1994. Some Witness prisoners are held in metal shipping containers while others are in stone or metal buildings half buried in the ground. One prisoner, Misghina Gebretinsae, aged 62, died in July 2011 because of extreme heat while in a punishment area described as the “underground” in the Meitir Prison Camp. Yohannes Haile, aged 68, died on August 16, 2012, after almost four years of imprisonment in the Meitir Camp under similar conditions. A few Witness prisoners were released from the Meitir Camp after experiencing severe health issues.

Recent Arrests

On April 14, 2014, when Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide gathered to commemorate the Memorial of the death of Jesus Christ, Eritrean authorities arrested more than 90 worshippers. Those arrested included both males and females ranging from as young as 16 months to over 85 years old. On April 27, 2014, Eritrean authorities arrested 31 worshippers who were meeting together for Bible study. Further information about the reasons for their detainments, how many are still in custody, and the conditions in which they are held are not currently available.

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