• Sweden edition
 
TEN YEARS IN PRISON
Dawit Isaak case a 'huge failure for Swedish diplomacy'
A sign from a September 2011 demonstration for Dawit Isaak's release

Dawit Isaak case a 'huge failure for Swedish diplomacy'

Published: 22 Sep 2011 08:50 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 Sep 2011 12:13 GMT+02:00

The only Swedish citizen currently considered a prisoner of conscience was arrested on September 23, 2001, shortly after the Eritrean newspaper he founded, Setit, published articles demanding political reforms.

Isaak had fled to Sweden in 1987 during Eritrea's war of succession from Ethiopia but returned in 2001 to help shape the media landscape in his recently independent homeland.

"I want to be where things are happening... I am a journalist and I want to work as one," he had told concerned friends in Sweden before going back.

On the day of his arrest, he reportedly thought he would only be taken in for questioning, but soon found that he and a dozen other newspaper owners, editors and journalists were accused of being Ethiopian spies and thrown

behind bars.

Sweden and the European Union, along with numerous rights groups and activist organisations, have repeatedly demanded his release, and all major Swedish newspapers have created a joint campaign, each day providing a count of how many days Isaak, now 46, has remained in captivity.

Only last week, the European Parliament demanded that he be set free, describing the human rights situation in Eritrea as "deplorable."

But after a decade of failed attempts, voices have increasingly been raised to demand a shift from Sweden's chosen tactic of "silent diplomacy."

"Silent diplomacy doesn't work. It's just naive to think it does," Isaak's brother Esayas told the TT news agency Thursday.

Lars Adaktusson, one of Sweden's most prominent journalists who has become

personally involved in the case, agreed.

"We passed some kind of limit during these 10 years when the strategy should have been changed," he told AFP adding what is needed is "something more outspoken, with stronger measures, like sanctions and withholding development aid."

Sweden's foreign ministry however has repeatedly insisted the current course of quietly working behind the scenes is the only way to deal with Eritrea, which is widely considered one of the world's most repressive dictatorships and which refuses to recognise the Swedish citizenship Isaak obtained in 1992.

"We will never give up... The government continues to work tirelessly to bring about the release of Dawit Isaak and our commitment remains firm," Foreign Minister Carl Bildt insisted in a statement Thursday, adding the journalist "should be released immediately."

He stressed though that "the case involves major difficulties."

In fact, Isaak's whereabouts are long unknown and the case did not cause much of a stir in Sweden at first.

But after he managed to sneak out a letter from his cell in early 2005 it kicked off a media storm in the Scandinavian country, and Stockholm sent a diplomat to Asmara to negotiate.

In November 2005, a joyous announcement came out of the blue: Dawit Isaak was free.

He even sent word to his family living in the southwestern Swedish town of Gothenburg that he would "see them soon in Sweden."

But the joy was short-lived. After breathing the air of freedom for three short days, Isaak was arrested again and Eritrean authorities announced he had only been allowed out for a medical check-up.

Last year Swedish media quoted a former guard saying the diabetic journalist was at the feared high-security Eraeiro secret prison near Asmara and appeared to be in poor health.

The harrowing details provided by the ex-guard, including descriptions of suffocating heat that is "worse than torture," led journalist Adaktusson to worry Isaak might not even be alive.

"When you hear about the conditions in the prison and what he has endured over the years, it is to be honest difficult to believe in a happy ending to this story," he said.

Peter Englund, who heads the Swedish Academy that awards the Nobel Literature Prize, meanwhile told AFP at a recent demonstration in Stockholm for Isaak that Sweden's failure to make any progress in the case over the past decade was scandalous.

"It is a huge failure for Swedish diplomacy," he said.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

14:24 September 22, 2011 by canuk
How about screw this guy and forget about him! he is not SWEDISH, if your country was so bad WHY IN GODS NAME would you go back there, he got exactly what he deserved and hopefully he is also being tortured.
18:22 September 22, 2011 by Stopbeingsuchawuss
holy crap Cunning please stfu and gtfo. What remains after political negotiations, war? Is that the "balls" you are talking about? I am amazed at all the (clearly) non Swedes (of all colors ((sad that I have to state that)) ) on this site bashing at every opportunity they get that the Swedes lack "balls" or the Swedes are "racist" etc etc.

It's pathetic. Either you are propaganda spewers or you are just that jealous. Stand up for yourselves and go read your own newspapers and be mad about that.
21:19 September 22, 2011 by Rey Stockholm
This is nothing to do with Sweden - if he wanted a new life here its his own fault for going back

People have to take resposnibility for their actions - Sweden can not solve all the world problems no matte how many liberals think it can
23:21 September 22, 2011 by prince T
Sweden is coward. I heard in d news dis morning that Reinfelt met with Eritera president at d UN but he refused to discuss Dawit with our PM. This show his disdain for sweden. Can he do that with US or UK leader. Can he even do dat with Libya, SA or Nigerian leaders
Today's headlines
Sports
Plot for shared Scandi Winter Olympic bid
Skiers hit the slopes in Åre, western Sweden. Photo: TT

Plot for shared Scandi Winter Olympic bid

Norwegian sports officials have said they want to co-host the winter Olympics with Sweden in 2026. But there has so far been no official response from Sweden. READ  

National
Anti-Israel graffiti 'not a race crime': Court
Photo: TT

Anti-Israel graffiti 'not a race crime': Court

A teenage boy who painted anti-Israel slogans and symbols on the Concert Hall in Gothenburg has been convicted for the damages he caused, but he walked free from racial agitation charges. READ  

Politics
'We knew that Israel would be critical'
Israeli ambassador Isaac Bachman. Photo: TT

'We knew that Israel would be critical'

UPDATED: Sweden's Foreign Minister has told The Local she respects Israel's decision to recall its ambassador from Stockholm, after Sweden officially recognized the State of Palestine. READ  

Entertainment
A closer look at Sweden's rising stars
Swedish actresses Sandra Huldt and Julia Ragnarsson. Julia (right) has been nominated for a Rising Star award. Photo: TT

A closer look at Sweden's rising stars

Like to be ahead of the game when it comes to the next big thing on the silver screen? We find out more about the Swedish nominees for the Rising Star award to be presented at Stockholm's International Film Festival next week. READ  

Science
Swedish women in two-year sex pill study
Contraceptive pills have been linked to mood swings. Photo: Shutterstock

Swedish women in two-year sex pill study

Three hundred women from across Sweden are taking part in a study designed to demonstrate that modern contraceptive pills don't lead to decreased libido or mood swings. READ  

National
Stockholm 'sinking' oil spill ship safe
The ship was rescued on Thursday. Photo: Swedish Coast Guard

Stockholm 'sinking' oil spill ship safe

After fears a ship carrying around 52 tonnes of oil could sink in Stockholm's archipelago, Sweden's Coast Guard said the vessel had been towed to safety. READ  

National
Dog attack policewoman acquitted on appeal
A scene from a video of the attack published by Dagens Nyheter

Dog attack policewoman acquitted on appeal

A policewoman accused of letting her dog attack a drunk man while she repeatedly hit him with a baton, has had her conviction overturned by a court in Stockholm. READ  

Entertainment
What's On: October 31st - November 7th
Uma Thurman will soon be on her way to Stockholm. Photo: TT

What's On: October 31st - November 7th

Halloween fun and an international film festival are the big events hitting Stockholm this week. We cast our eye over the capital and the rest of the country for the best activities to check out this week. READ  

International
Pirate Bay Swede found guilty in Denmark
Gottrid Svartholm Warg. File photo: TT

Pirate Bay Swede found guilty in Denmark

Sweden's Pirate Bay Founder Gottrid Svartholm Warg was found guilty of hacking crimes in a Danish court on Thursday. READ  

National
Malmö loses out as rare toads move in
The European green toad. Photo: H. Krisp (WikiCommons)

Malmö loses out as rare toads move in

After a rare species of toad moved into southern Sweden's Malmö, builders have had to tone down massive expansion plans in the area. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
Stockholm's shocking take on Halloween
Sport
Top ten quotes from Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
People-watching: October 30th
National
Sweden remains fourth best for gender equality
Blog updates

31 October

Editor’s Blog, October 31st (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Welcome to our latest 60-second round-up of the week’s news. First, Sweden made headlines around the..." READ »

 

29 October

Scariest day (Blogweiser) »

"This is what’s frightening me on Halloween. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4OFZVCu8J0&list=UUJu5J7jG4uoYSjWbpFsJBuQ Follow my posts on FB. ..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations
Sport
World Cup ski race on 'fake' Stockholm slope
Society
An Arctic tradition: hunting and handicraft
Society
Stockholm taxis offer free therapy sessions
National
The Local meets Health Minister Gabriel Wikström
Gallery
Property of the week: Österåker
Society
Homeless turtles get Stockholm police ride
National
Construction worker has 'Sweden's best beard'
National
Italian musician jazzes up Sweden's Lapland
Gallery
Zlatan's career in pictures
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching: October 25th and 26th
Lifestyle
'Swedes are funnier than they think'
National
Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

970
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN