NEWS ALERT: Eritrea Evangelical Christian Dies In Prison Camp

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

By Worthy News Africa Service

Over 2,800 Christians have been detained in Eritrea according to several estimates.

ASMARA, ERITREA (Worthy News)-- The situation of detained Christians in Eritrea has worsened, amid reports that a Christian man held in the country's notorious Wi'a Military Camp has died of meningitis, following an outbreak in the prison, Worthy News learned Tuesday September 22.

Mesfin Gebrekristos, an evangelical Christian, is the fourth known believer to have died behind bars this year, said Open Doors, a well-informed Christian advocacy group with close ties to underground churches in the African nation.

"At least seven prisoners held at Wi’a Military camp have died in an outbreak of meningitis before the government relocated the prisoners and staff to Mitire Military Concentration Camp," Open Doors added.

Gebrekristos spent the past year imprisoned for his Evangelical faith and leaves behind a wife and two children, Christians said. He is also the tenth reported Christian to have died while being incarcerated for worship outside of the state approved Lutheran, Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Over 2,800 Christians remain under custody in prisons, police cells, military camps and labor camps across Eritrea "for their faith in Christ", said Open Doors and other rights groups.

The government outlawed all religious activities outside of the Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran and Islamic faiths in 2002, although even those groups have reported harassment of leaders.

Eritrea's government has defended its actions, saying it wants to protect the country against dangerous sects.

On September 6 the Eritrean leadership reportedly urged citizens to report any "illegal" gatherings of Christians in their neighbourhoods, which it described as "criminal acts" deserving "to be punished by law."