Rev Haile Naizghe has been in prison in Eritrea since May 2004. Before his arrest he was chair of a network of house churches that was banned by the government.
A former senior accountant with World Vision, Rev Haile Naizghe was chair of the Full Gospel Church of Eritrea, one of the country’s largest Pentecostal networks, comprising about 150 house church groups. These groups were closed by government decree in May 2003 and given an application form for government registration. They completed and returned the form, but no reply was ever received. This followed a crackdown on Christians in Eritrea in May 2002, when the government banned all religious groups except the Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches and Sunni Islam.
Rev Haile was arrested early in the morning of 23 May 2004 and taken to Police Station #1 in Asmara, the capital. Two other Christian leaders were arrested with him, Dr Kiflu Gebremeskel (chair of the Eritrean Evangelical Alliance) and Pastor Tesfatsion Hagos of Rhema Evangelical Church in Asmara. During the three leaders’ arrests, police officials confiscated the keys to their church offices and threatened their wives.
Initially the men were held in police cells, but they were transferred to the notorious maximum-security Wengel Mermera Central Criminal Investigation interrogation centre, part of Asmara’s 2nd Police Station. It is believed that many of Eritrea’s prominent political and military prisoners are incarcerated in this dungeon-like inner labyrinth of cells, as well as Christian leaders.
News from Eritrean prisons is extremely difficult to obtain and often emerges from relatives of other prisoners; publicising news of Eritrean prisoners is potentially harmful to the prisoner and those with whom he or she is held. It is believed that Rev Haile is still being held with Dr Kiflu and other Christian leaders, including Pastor Kidane Weldou, Mussie Ezaz and Pastor Meron Gebreselasie. Pastor Tesfatsion was released in 2010, gravely ill, but recovered and left Eritrea.
Rev Haile and his fellow leaders have never been tried, and have been held incommunicado since their arrest.
Rev Haile is married with four children (names withheld for security reasons). After he was put in prison his wife was at risk of arrest and fled Eritrea with the children. They had a very difficult journey and got separated along the way, but now they are settled elsewhere in Africa and the children attend a good school. They feel safe but homesick.
Rev Haile’s wife and children have not been allowed any contact with him during his imprisonment – they have not seen him since 2004. His mother was seriously ill at the time of his arrest and died without being allowed to see him. His two older brothers Isaac and Immanuel were killed over twenty years ago during the Eritrean war of independence.
(Release Eritrea, Release International, Voice of the Martyrs, World Watch Monitor)