ERITREA: Almost 900 Christians in prison

A new list (compiled by evangelical sources) details almost 900 Eritrean Christians known to be jailed in local prisons, military confinement camps and shipping containers for daring to meet secretly for prayer and worship outside government-sanctioned churches.

At least 144 of the jailed Christians are women including the singer, Helen Berhane (pictured left) who was arrested last May. It was previously thought that she had been released in January. She has been alternately held in a metal container or locked in solitary confinement in an underground cell as officials attempt to force her to renounce participation in banned Christian services.

The number of prisoners is significantly higher than previously reported. The prisoners are being held in in local prisons, military confinement camps and shipping containers.

According to the compiled list of prisoners, there are 235 evangelical believers jailed at Sawa, 65 at Mai Serwa, 53 in Adi-Abyto, 73 in Assab, 190 in Weaa, 100 in Gelalo, 101 in Alaa, and 16 at Adi Teklizan. A number are still being held in local police stations — 41 in Asmara and nine in Keren.

It is now almost impossible for Christians from non-sanctioned churches to meet, even informally, without risking indefinite detention. Many Christians have been arrested while attending New Year celebrations, weddings or other social functions. In some cases the mere possession of a Bible or holding family devotional times are seen as sufficient evidence of guilt. (Compass/CSW)