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Religious Persecution Increasing In Eritrea Says Amnesty International Report

Amnesty International says religious persecution is increasing in Eritrea. In a report issued today, Amnesty says the Eritrean government has extended its reach to include not only members of the Jehovah’s Witness church but also Evangelical Christian churches and Islamic sects. The report cites cases of torture, trials of detainees by secret security committees, and incidents of government officials forcing people to sign documents renouncing their beliefs. The government of Eritrea denies these allegations, saying its citizens are free to practice their religious beliefs. Information Minister Ali Abdu is quoted as saying, "We cannot run every day after such unsubstantiated fabrications." Caroline Ford, the deputy director of Amnesty International’s Africa Program, told English to Africa reporter Ruby Ofori the growing persecution of religious minorities is part of a wider government campaign against “difference and dissent.” She said: “Our documentation has shown that in the past three years at least 26 pastors and priests, some 1,750 Evangelical church members and dozens of Muslims have been detained by the government… many of these have been actually tortured.” Ms. Ford said the Evangelical church detainees include “170 women and dozens of children.” She said: “People are being held in secret detention facilities. What that means is that you can be taken to where your family has no idea you’ve been taken to.” Ms. Ford said Amnesty International gave a copy of the report to the government of Eritrea Tuesday but they have yet to respond to the human rights group. Ms Ford said Amnesty International is hoping the international community will pressure the Eritrean authorities to release all prisoners of conscience and observe the rights of its citizens.