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Saturday 11th November 2006

Eritrean authorities release gospel singer Helen Berhane

ERITREAN gospel singer Helen Berhane, whose 'T'kebaeku' album was released through Christian Solidarity International earlier this year, has been released from detention. She has been held in a steel shipping container in the desert for refusing to give up her religious activities. The Eritrean authorities have finally let Helen go after detaining her for more than two years. She has spent at least part of that 29 months held in an unventilated shipping container in the desert - enduring searing heat by day and freezing cold by night. Her leg was damaged from the beatings she received in detention and she recently had to receive hospital treatment. She is now said to be able to walk again, but only with the aid of a walking-stick.

Helen is described as in "good spirits" - despite all she has endured. Dr Berhane Ashmelash, the Director of Release Eritrea, said he was "extremely relieved to hear that Helen has finally been released from prison." Helen's plight - and that of almost 2,000 other Christians held in detention - has been raised by Release International and other Christian human rights organisations. 110,000 people have signed a petition calling on Eritrea to free Christians imprisoned for their faith. Some, like Helen, have been locked away in metal shipping containers in the searing heat of the desert.

Andy Dipper, the Chief Executive of Release International added: "It seems that Eritrea is finally waking up to the international concern about the way it is treating its Christians. It must stop treating these believers as political dissidents and respect their human rights. While Helen has been released, up to 150 more Christians have been taken into detention." CR

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