70 Christians freed from prison in Eritrea


Dozens of Christians have been freed from prison in Eritrea after being held for years without charge. 

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that the Christians - 70 in total - came from evangelical and orthodox backgrounds, with prison sentences ranging from two to 12 years.

CSW said they were detained without charge or trial, and "should never have been incarcerated".

The freed prisoners include six women who were arrested on a street after worshipping in public. 

Most of the prisoners were freed from Mai Serwa and Adi Abeito prisons, near the capital, Asmara, on 1 February.

In December, 24 Jehovah's Witnesses were freed, among them high-profile conscientious objectors Paulos Eyasu, Isaac Mogos and Negede Teklemariam, who had been held for 26 years. 

Although their release has been welcomed, CSW said it is possible that Eritrea is trying to deflect international attention away from its involvement in the ongoing war in Ethiopia's Tigray region, where Eritrean troops have been accused of acts of violence that may amount to war crimes or even genocide.  

CSW's Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: "CSW welcomes the release of these Christians in Eritrea, who were detained without charge or trial, and should never have been incarcerated.

"However, this good news must not obscure the Eritrean regime's continued complicity in egregious violations of human rights, both within its own borders and now in Tigray.

"We call on the international community to press Eritrea for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained arbitrarily on account of their religion or belief.

"We also call for urgent action to arrest the unfolding crisis in Tigray, including by imposing arms embargoes on the warring parties, and sanctions on the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea, who bear ultimate responsibility for human rights violations that are allegedly being committed with impunity by their respective forces."