Eritrean Catholic Bishop Fikremariam Hagos freed from detention

  • Published
Bishop Fikremariam HagosImage source, Catholic Gheez
Image caption,
Bishop Fikremariam Hagos was detained after he returned from Europe

A leading Catholic bishop in Eritrea has been freed from detention after being held without trial since October, reliable sources have told the BBC.

Bishop Fikremariam Hagos was released along with a parish priest, Abba Mihretab Stefanos.

No reasons were given by the authorities for their detention.

The Catholic Church has repeatedly called for an end to one-party rule in Eritrea, and for democracy to be embraced.

The Catholic Archbishop of Asmara and a small congregation gathered to welcome the clerics after their release.

Eritrea has not held a national election since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1991.

It has been ruled since then by President Isaias Afwerki. His regime has been accused of human rights abuses - including violating religious rights.

The bishop had been detained since 15 October after he returned to the capital, Asmara, from a trip to Europe.

In 2019, the authorities shut Catholic-run schools and hospitals, saying that religious bodies could not run such institutions.

Catholics make up about 4% of Eritrea's population. The church is one of only four religious groups allowed to operate in Eritrea, along with the Eritrean Orthodox, Evangelical Lutheran, and Sunni Muslim groups.