The Eritrean government has released on bail 36 prisoners who have been in detention because of their memberships in Christian Evangelical and Pentecostal denominations.
Sources told the BBC that 14 of the released prisoners have been in detention for the past four years on Dahilik island. Twenty-two others, arrested at the end of last month, have also been freed on bail.
While largely a Christian country, in 2002 Eritrea introduced a new law that forbids all churches except for the Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran denominations.
The Eritrean government distrusts newly introduced religions and accuses Pentecostal and Evangelical Christians of being instruments of foreign governments.
The Sunni branch of Islam is also officially recognised.
Recently the Eritrean government has been releasing people imprisoned because of their religious affiliation.
In September 2020, the Eritrean government released more than 20 prisoners who had been detained for years. In December, the authorities also released 28 members of the Jehovah’s Witness group after they had served long prison terms.
Many Christians still remain in detention and others are routinely arrested because of their faith, according to religious freedom campaigners.
Eritrea, a secretive, highly militarised nation, has been ruled by Isaias Afwerki since its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, with no elections or parliament and a draft constitution that has never been implemented. (Source: BBC)