Eritrea ‘releases Christian prisoners’

The Eritrean government has released on bail more than 20 prisoners held for years because of their faith.

The prisoners from Christian evangelical and Pentecostal denominations were among those held in a prison outside the capital, Asmara.

In Eritrea only four religious groups are officially recognised – Christian Orthodox, Catholic Church, Lutheran Church and Sunni Islam.

According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) since 2020 all other religious groups have lacked the legal basis to practise their faiths in public, including holding prayer meetings and having weddings.

US-based religious freedom activist Hannibal Daniel said people imprisoned for about 16 years were among those freed.

Daniel said their release could be linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

The government of Eritrea has not yet commented on the release of the prisoners, but had previously dismissed accusations of intolerance to religious freedom.

Religious freedom activists say three Jehovah witnesses have been in prison in the country for over 25 years.

The US State Department estimates that there are 1,200 to 3,000 prisoners of faith in Eritrea.

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