Eritrea Christian Dies In Prison Camp; Pastor Released

Sunday, February 21, 2010

By Worthy News Africa Service

ASMARA, ERITREA (Worthy News)-- Christians in a detention camp in Eritrea faced a difficult Sunday, February 21, as news emerged that one of their fellow inmate died of a heart attack in the notorious Alla Military Camp after alleged abuses.

Hana Hagos Asgedom, 41, a member of the evangelical Asabe Rhema Church, died January 24, Christian rights investigators confirmed. Several other Christian detainees are also known to have died in recent years.

Hana had reportedly been detained at Wi'a Military Camp for three years following her arrest in 2007. She was moved to the Alla Military Camp when the Wi'a camp was dismantled seven months ago, according to Christians familiar with her situation.

On arrival at the new camp, Hana was offered a final opportunity to renounce her faith, said Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC), a major advocacy group investigating the plight of reportedly persecuted Christians.

"When she refused, she was placed in solitary confinement. Shortly before her death, she reportedly endured beatings with an iron rod for refusing to "make the chief commander in the camp a cup of coffee". Local Christians reportedly said the order was in reality a sexual advance.

She was then returned to her cell where she endured further punishment and eventually passed away, VOMC explained.


Also in Eritrea, Pastor Habtom Tewelde, 55, a Full Gospel Church leader who was arrested and detained in 2008, was released on January 21, the group added. "He was reportedly freed due to medical complications from his diabetes. Upon his release, he was warned not to continue his Christian activities."

Christians and several rights groups have said there are at least 2,800 Christians jailed under often "horrific circumstances" in several prisons facilities, including underground cells, containers and military prison camps.

Eritrea's government has denied mass Christian detentions saying "no groups or persons are persecuted in Eritrea for their beliefs or religion."

The Eritrean government in May 2002 outlawed all religious groups except Islam and the Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran churches. (With reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).