Eritrea Frees Religious Prisoners Jailed for More Than Two Decades

ADDIS ABEBA – Eritrea released 28 Jehovah’s Witnesses who spent between five and 26 years in prison without trial, according to media reports.

In 1994 the citizenship for all members of the church was revoked and followers are routinely imprisoned without trial. One of the reasons given was their refusal to go on military service, according to reports.

The detainees were freed on Dec. 4, while 24 others still remain in prison, according to a statement on its website. Seven of the group’s followers have died in Eritrea, either in prison or shortly after being freed, it said.

“Several of those jailed are male witnesses who are conscientious objectors to military service,” the group said. “The majority — including women and the elderly — are imprisoned for religious activity or for undisclosed reasons.”

Only four religious denominations are allowed – Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christianity, Sunni Islam and the Lutheran church.