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Swedish media groups call for Eritrea aid ban

Swedish media groups call for Eritrea aid ban

Published: 03 May 2010 13:30 GMT+02:00
Updated: 03 May 2010 13:30 GMT+02:00

Swedish media and rights groups on Monday called on the EU to halt aid to Eritrea until Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak and other prisoners are released from a "death camp" near the capital Asmara.

"The EU's aid to Eritrea must gradually be halted," said the heads of the Swedish chapters of rights groups like Reporters Without Borders and PEN, along with journalist and publishing associations in a statement to mark World Press Freedom Day.

No aid should be given to Asmara "until the Eraeiro death camp is closed, its prisoners are given medical care ... and released or given an open trial on the 'crimes' they are suspected of," they wrote in an opinion piece in the Dagens Nyheter daily.

According to the piece, the EU's total aid package to Eritrea in coming years totals $413 million.

Their appeal came amid new reports on harsh conditions at the high-security Eraeiro secret prison near Asmara, where Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak and a number of other reporters and opposition politicians are reportedly being held.

An Eritrean with Swedish citizenship, Isaak was arrested in September 2001 along with a dozen newspaper owners, editors and journalists accused of being Ethiopian spies.

A number of demonstrations were planned across Sweden Monday calling for the release of the reporter, now 45.

"The prisoners are dying one by one. How long will it take before the world reacts and puts pressure on Eritrea to release the political prisoners?" Isaak's brother Esayas told the TT news agency.

Last month, the first information in years pinpointing Isaak's whereabouts and describing the conditions of his detention emerged in Sweden, and on Monday new accounts from a former guard at the Eraeiro prison surfaced.

Isaak "complains all the time, asking for 'medicine, medicine,' and all the time asking for help from a doctor ... I think he has mental problems," ex-guard Eyob Bahta Habtemariam told the Expressen daily.

Habtemariam, in hiding in Ethiopia, said he had last seen Isaak on January 5th, right before he himself fled from Eritrea.

He said Isaak was held handcuffed nearly around the clock in solitary confinement in a windowless cell measuring only 12 square metres at the secret prison, some 50 kilometres from Asmara.

The prisoners there, which include former government ministers opposed to President Isaias Afeworki, were not tortured, but according to Habtemariam, the suffocating heat and isolation "was worse than torture".

"When I started working (at the prison) nine years ago, there were 35 prisoners. Fifteen of them are dead today," he told Expressen, adding that three of the dead had killed themselves.

"There is a risk (Isaak) will kill himself," Habtemariam insisted.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:46 May 3, 2010 by Nemesis
This is a good idea.

There is a large number of countires in the third world that could eb changed quickly if we threatened to cut of aid and arms sales.

All it takes is for the west to cut of aid to one country and the rest will get the message.

Also any money withheld should be spent on social and infrastructure in the west. That would send a message that any monies withheld will not merelly be heald until a later date.
21:01 May 3, 2010 by boby
Bunch of Swedish hypocrats. When Israel is posing blockade on Gaza as applying pressure to get the kidnapped soldier back, all these left fachists from Sweden jump up and down and compare Israel to the Nazis. But when it is one of thier own, then it is OK to stop aid to milions. I hate the left fachists.
23:01 May 3, 2010 by Uncle
boby - I back your comment fully.

To cut aid for starving Eritreans - this is fair and legal , whereas to stop providing fuel and cigarettes to aggressive, rocket shooting, suicide bomber sending, kidnapping Gaza, where millions of dollars are poured already by Europe is unacceptable.

If it was an Israeli journalist kidnapped in Eritrea, Sweden would probably sue Israel in Strasbourg if it dared to apply economical pressure on Eritrea, while muslims would make a party here. Freaking ridiculous.
01:33 May 4, 2010 by bbeynch
What many people do not realize is that generally accepted diplomatic protocol dictates that a person with dual citizenship is subject to the laws of the country where he comitted the legal infraction. Even the UN follows this principle. Hence a dual citizenship Eritrea/Sweden can not appeal to Swedish authorities in Eritrea for assistance. He is considered a 100% Eritrean. And vice versa too. If he committed a crime in Sweden, he can not seek assistance from Eritrean authrities there, as he is "Swedish". Whether this is fair or not is another matter. If the conditions in an eritrean prison are "harsh" by Swedish standards may be irrelevant to Eritrean authorities, since to them he simply an "Eritrean". It is thus not always a positive to carry two passports.
02:28 May 4, 2010 by salamlalam
I am flablagasted to see Eritreans in the diaspora who enablers to the slave plantation owner of a country called Eritrea. The people are forced to give their teenage boys and girls to such a state. What ever they produce is sold at low price to the government.and every Eritrean has been equally poor and destitued, except the few slave drivers. I don't know how these cowardly people waged a war of liberation unless they were forced at the barrel of the gun and had no choice but to fight to death. The people of Eritrea are not the one that are getting the aid of the west but, every, liberation front, and every arms merchant. It is hight times important that the west should cease and descese to sustain the enslavement of the people. The people have lost the dream to a democratic and free nation, and they go with their tails between their legs. They go out scared and sleep scared, and the number of mental patients in relation to its population is among the highest in the world.

EU please do the Eritrean people a favor and stop aid to the Dictator of Eritrea and the few dogs; the people are used to survive with little but can't survive the dehumanizing mental sickness.
11:55 May 4, 2010 by Audrian
This regime was hailed as a shinning example of democracy in the offing when it was at war for cessation. The dictator has killed numerous radical ethnic Tigre-students that left the university in Ethiopia and joined the struggle because they demanded democratic leadership. This inconvenient news was ignored, because he was regarded on the western side of the cold war. The regime in Eritrea has not changed one bite it is the West that has lost consistency.
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