US Congresswoman Calls on Eritrea to Release American

Chief of Mission Natalie E. Brown, far left, and Deputy Chief of Mission Stephen Bank, far right, pose with Rep. Joe Neguse, Rep. Karen Bass, Eritrean Minister of Foreign Affairs Osman Saleh and Rep. Ilhan Omar. The members of Congress were on an official visit to Eritrea.

(VOA News) – The chair of a U.S. House Foreign Affairs subcommittee has called on the Eritrean government to release an American citizen who has been detained in the country for more than six years.

Ciham Ali Abdu was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Eritrea. In December 2012, Eritrean officials apprehended Ciham when she attempted to leave the country without a mandatory exit visa. Her family hasn’t seen or heard from her since, despite attempts to learn about her whereabouts and well-being.

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, called for Ciham’s release in social media posts Friday.

“I was in Eritrea just last month,” Bass wrote on Twitter and Facebook. “The country’s leaders should release Ciham, who had a birthday this past week, and all of Eritrea’s political prisoners to send a message that the country is embarking on a new path that includes respect for human rights.”

Bass visited Eritrea and Ethiopia with Reps. Joe Neguse and Ilhan Omar, both of whom joined Congress in January. Neguse represents Colorado’s second district. His parents emigrated from Eritrea to the U.S. in 1980. Omar, a Somali-American, came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1992 and represents Minnesota’s fifth district.

It was the first congressional delegation to visit Eritrea in 14 years, according to the U.S. Embassy in Asmara.

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