A pastor in Eritrea is reportedly in need of medical care after being incarcerated for over a decade, according to a Christian charity.
Voice of the Martyrs Australia reported on June 7 that Pastor Oqbamichel Haiminot was finally released from a prison in Eritrea after being locked up for 11 years.
Haminot, a senior pastor of the Kale Hiwot (Word of Life) Church in Asmara, was initially arrested in 2005 along with 60 other Christians during a wedding ceremony.
The relatives say they were told that the Christians were taken to the Sawa military centre for "military punishment." While some of the Christians were gradually released over the next few months, Haiminot and five others remained in jail.
Voice of the Martyrs reported that the pastor was abused and put in solitary confinement because of his refusal to renounce his faith. As a result, Haiminot reportedly went through a mental breakdown, after which the authorities decided to release him. But he was arrested again in October 2007.
Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA says that many Christians have been arrested in Eritrea, but they have not been detained for as long as the pastor was.
"We don't know exactly why he was released at this time. Why not a year ago? Why not a year from now? We don't know what the logic behind that is — or if there is any logic behind it," Nettleton said, according to Mission Network News.
The Voice of the Martyrs says the pastor is in need of medical attention and it is calling on Christians to pray for him as he adjusts to his life outside of prison.
Thousands of Christians have reportedly been incarcerated in Eritrea over the past several years. The nation has been ranked in the Open Doors' World Watch List as the sixth worst country in the world when it comes to persecution of Christians.
Nettleton says that the Eritrean government shut down all of the evangelical churches in the country as part of its crackdown on Christian activities that began in 2002.
"One of the things that's amazing is the courage that it takes to continue to serve Christ when you know you could go to prison.... None of these Christians has ever actually even been charged with a crime. None of them has had a trial. None of them has gotten a lawyer or been allowed to present their case. They just get arrested and they kind of disappear," Nettleton said, as reported by Mission Network News.