Young Christian Dies In Eritrea Prison Camp

Sunday, May 9, 2010

By Worthy News Africa Service with reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos

ASMARA, ERITREA (Worthy News)-- A young Christian woman has died in one of Eritrea's military prison camps after she was reportedly denied medical treatment for malaria and severe anemia.

Senait Oqbazgi Habta, 28, died April 23 in the Sawa Military Training Centre in Eritrea where she had been detained for some two years for attending a Bible study group with 15 other university students, said Open Doors, a well-informed Christian advocacy and aid group.

She and other students were imprisoned in large metal shipping containers where they suffered suffocating heat during the day and freezing temperatures at night, Netherlands-based Open Doors explained.

"Our local sources say that Habta was offered freedom and medical care in exchange for abandoning het Christian faith. She refused and paid the ultimate price as she died because of that decision," added Open Doors spokesman Jan Vermeer.

He suggested that she was deliberately brought too late to the medical post in the camp,  where she died.


Over a dozen Christians are known to have died in detention in Eritrea, but Open Doors claimed that number may be higher. "Most Christians die because they don't receive medical care.  Illnesses are rampant because of the horrible circumstances of prisoners," Vermeer said.

Last year Eritrea released some 600 Christians, because many of them nearly died in their prisons, according to Open Doors investigators.

Over 2,200 devoted Christians are believed to remain detained in the African nation, with new arrests reported. More than 80 Christians were detained in the past two months, including 11 Christians who gathered for a prayer meeting in April, Open Doors said. It was unclear Sunday, May 9, where the 11 Christians were held.

Since 2002, Eritrea only allows the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, the Roman-Catholic Church and Islamic groups to operate officially, although church leaders of these traditional denominations have also complained about harassment

"Especially Christians who actively spread the Gospel have been targeted," Open Doors stressed in a statement. The Eritrean government has denied any wrongdoing saying it wants to protect the country against dangerous sects and bad foreign influences.