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Dozens of Eritrean Muslims arrested in state crackdown

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online

ASMARA, Eritrea - The Eritrean government has been subjected to intensive criticism, following crackdown targeting Muslims, with no justification being given.

Isaias Afwerki, Eritrea's president, has often faced accusations from both Human Rights Watch and other entities over violation of people's rights.

The veteran leader, who is synonymous with controversy, has often dismissed the claims as "malicious propaganda tainting my government".

But the tiny Horn of Africa nation has been flagged before as a hotbed of mass violation of human rights and suppression of critics.

At least 21 people were arrested from Adi-Quala and environs last year, Humans Rights Watch has said, adding that they have remained in detention.

But surprisingly, the reasons for their arrest are unknown. They have not been released, and their whereabouts are also unknown, the group added.

Among those targeted in the crackdown, the rights group added were young Muslims majority of them, industrious businessmen.

Any independence of thought or assertion of the right to religious freedom in Eritrea is swiftly followed by arrests, whether the faith be Christian or Muslim, reports indicate.

Religious sponsored institutions have not to be spared too. The recent forcible expropriation of Catholic Medical Clinics has been part of this process.

Elizabeth Chyrum, Director of Human Rights Concern-Eritrea, commented, “Disturbing evidence keeps emerging from Eritrea that government persecution of citizens for their religion."

Strict government control over religious activities which benefit the poor and needy seems to be ever more rigorously asserted, she added.

The arrests, she said, " appear to be outside the legal system. Victims have no charges made against them, but disappear into a lawless underworld."

Members of the international community should come out and reprimand the government strongly, she said.

President Isaias Afwerki has been at the helm for over two decades and he's often blamed for religious intolerance and extrajudicial killings.

Being a multi-religion, the arrests could trigger intolerance and uprising targeting government institutions, analysts have warned.

The Asmara authorities have remained mum over the latest complaints, with Muslim leaders demanding answers from the government.

Of those abducted and detained unlawfully, Human Rights Watch said, were whisked by authorities out of their businesses and other social places.


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