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The first senior pastor to be arrested following the 2002 crackdown on religion in Eritrea, has been released after spending more than a decade in prison.
Pastor Oqbamichel Haiminot was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison back in 2007 after spending years of harassment and arrests because of his Christian faith.
According to charity International Christian Concern (ICC), no charges were ever filed against him.
One of ICC's sources shared: "There are only four legalized religions allowed in the country, which include Eritrean Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, and Sunni Islam.
"The regime touts this as religious freedom, however, to join any of these religions, people must first make four pledges."
People in the African nation are made to pledge to never be "born again," that his or her loyalty is to the government, not God or the Church, to never carry a Bible outside of church or the home and to turn in any missionaries or evangelists to the government.
Reporting a missionary or evangelist is rewarded with the equivalent of three months' wages.
An underground pastor in Eritrea told the ICC: "There are false brothers among us, who gather information. [He comes] to you, believing in the name of Jesus, you baptize him, but he is a spy."
The charity claimed these spies are sent by the government to find those who are not part of the four legal religions, in order to arrest them.
Responding to the pastor's release, Nathan Johnson, ICC's Regional Manager for Africa, stated: "We are rejoicing for the release of a faithful man and are praying for his health and safety as he returns to a somewhat free life.
"We also remember the hundreds of others who are still suffering under this cruel and inhumane regime. The world must come together to end the abuse of human rights in Eritrea."
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