Dozens of Christians in a northeast African country are free again after some spent well over a dozen years imprisoned without charges.
The Government of Eritrea is well-known for detaining and holding prisoners of all faiths, other than the ones accepted by the government, with no charges made.
Since 2002, the Eritrean government has effectively banned all religious practices outside of Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran or Orthodox Christian denominations and Sunni Islam, according to a press release from Release Eritrea, a London-based nonprofit Release Eritrea, which promotes religious harmony and human rights,.
In a video interview with Greg Musselman from Voice of the Martyr's Canada, it's confirmed that Christians have recently been released from the Mai Serwa prison, known for its brutal conditions.
"It's difficult to communicate with Eritrea. We're not safe to contact anybody so we're not sure about the number," says Dr. Berhane Ashmelash, the Director of Release Eritrea.
"It's true we have at least 30 people that are free," according to Dr. Ashmelash.
Another report by International Christian Concern believes it's at least 27 Christians that have been released.
This report says, "Though these Christians have been released for the first time in years, they are still not free to do as they would like."
While no one knows at this point why some unregistered denomination Christians have been released from this prison, Dr. Ashmelash shares some thoughts.
"A lot of people suspect it's because of COVID-19 because prisons are overcrowded. I heard the news in the middle of August that they were going to release some Christians."
The number of Christians that are currently still in prison in Eritrea is unknown, as Mai Serwa prison isn't the only one detaining Christians.
"I suspect 400-500. The only problem is that there are some military camps that have their own prisons," says Dr. Ashmelash.
"Release Eritrea is concerned for the safety and well-being of the detainees," the release says, "and calls upon its partners to help exert pressure on the Government of Eritrea to guarantee their safe release."