Displaying items by tag: imprisonment
In mid-March, 29 evangelical Christians (17 women and twelve men) were arrested at a house church and taken to Mai Serwa prison camp. Such Christian gatherings have been in homes for twenty years after all churches were closed apart from Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran. Every neighbourhood has a government spy living there observing it and reporting unusual activity to the authorities. Churches have found government spies pretending to be Christians, joining and reporting on congregations. Mai Serwa houses more prisoners than it was built for. They are held in shipping containers holding 20+ detainees. Often prisoners take turns to sleep on bare floors because beds or mattresses are not allowed. The conditions were condemned by Amnesty International in 2020. With overcrowding and lack of adequate sanitation, healthcare, and food, conditions are inhumane; Covid-19 is a major concern. Prisoners' conditions have disastrous consequences on their mental and physical health.
At least eight Westerners have been arrested in Afghanistan during different incidents in the last two months, marking a sharp escalation of Taliban actions against Westerners living in the country. No formal charges have been lodged against the six British citizens, one of whom is an American legal resident, and one US citizen. Afghanistan’s former vice-president tweeted that nine Westerners had been ‘kidnapped’ by the Taliban, naming journalists Andrew North, formerly of the BBC who was working for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), and Peter Jouvenal, who has worked with the BBC and CNN. The reason for each of the specific detentions is unclear, and they are not thought to be related. Peter's family believe he is detained in error. He was working openly, having frequent meetings with Taliban officials to discuss investments in Afghanistan's mining industry. Peter suffers from high blood pressure and needs medication.
Eritrea remains one of the worst countries in the world for Christian persecution. Imprisoned Christians are tortured, starved, and forced into hard labour. Conditions are worse for pastors and theological students who are singled out for beatings or have their jail terms extended as a warning to others. Many Christians are held indefinitely, often without trial, not knowing when they will be released. Some are kept in shipping containers, where they are exposed to the searing desert heat by day and cold by night. 69 Christian prisoners were released in September 2020 in Covid-19 control measures. Most had been held for over ten years without trial, some for 16 years. The releases were made on condition that bail securities were lodged, usually in the form of property deeds, with guarantors held liable for the detainees’ future actions. None of the known imprisoned pastors or senior Christian leaders were among those released. Tens of thousands of Christians have fled from Eritrea to Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, and Israel.
A Saudi women’s rights activist, Loujain al-Hathloul (31), was arrested along with about a dozen other female activists in May 2018. She has been on hunger strike for a week, and on 5 November her health was said to be rapidly worsening. UN experts are calling for her immediate release. She was arrested just weeks before Saudi Arabia lifted a decades-old ban on female drivers, yet she is still in prison. Her deteriorating health was ‘deeply alarming’, said the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The committee, made up of 23 independent experts, also voiced serious concern ‘by recent information concerning the conditions of Ms al-Hathloul’s prolonged detention, including reports that she is not allowed regular contact with her family’. Some activists arrested with her were provisionally released. Others remain in detention, subjected to waterboarding, sexual harassment, and court trials for contacting media, diplomats and human rights groups.
The Eritrean government has released 69 Christian prisoners, many of whom have been in long-term detention without trial for their faith. Following the release of more than twenty male and female prisoners on 4 September, the authorities are continuing to make conditional releases from the notorious Mai Serwa prison which is known to put detainees in underground cells and metal shipping containers. The releases, linked to Covid-19 policies, are made on condition that bail securities are lodged, usually in the form of property deeds, with guarantors held liable for the detainees’ future actions. Christian leader Dr Berhane Asmelash hopes for further significant releases from the 300+ Christians, including children, who remain incarcerated.
Xiao, the wife of Qin Defu, an imprisoned pastor, writes, ‘I am begging for prayers for my family and me. Defu has been in jail over six months.’ At first she received short phone calls from him but she has now not heard from him for over 70 days. She said, ‘My reasoning makes me believe he is alive, and God is with him. However, not hearing from him is like an enemy. It hurts me so much that I suffer every day. I just want to receive one three-minute call from him, but this apparently has become an extravagant hope. Dear God, please let me follow behind You, pulling on the hem of Your clothes, I know my weakness, so I am begging for my brothers and sisters to pray for me and Qin Defu. God, please, out of charity, give us mercy. We are so lowly we cannot bear it.’
Three women, charged with 'inciting prostitution' for not wearing veils, have been sentenced to 42 years in prison between them. Now, with Covid-19 cases confirmed in prisons across Iran, they are in more danger than ever. Monireh, Yasaman and Mojgan have done nothing wrong; thousands are calling on the head of the judiciary to release them immediately. As an act of peaceful protest, the unveiled women handed out flowers to female passengers on a Tehran metro train. They were filmed sharing their hopes for Iranian women on International Women’s Day. Days after the video went viral on social media, they were charged with sham offences including ‘inciting prostitution’ for promoting unveiling. Prisoners in Iran are at particular risk because they are unable to take the same social distancing and hygiene measures as those outside prison to protect themselves.