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New plea for Dawit Isaak release after 4,500 days

The Local · 19 Jan 2014, 13:40

Published: 19 Jan 2014 13:40 GMT+01:00

Isaak has been locked up in an Eritrean jail without trial for exactly 4,500 days on Sunday. To coincide with the latest anniversary of his imprisonment campaigners staged a manifestation in the capital in an attempt to bring his detainment back into the public eye. 

"Nelson Mandela was held for 27-years but we hope that you can come out much earlier," said journalist Stina Lundberg Dabrowski who chairs the Swedish Publicists' Association.

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.

The father of three worked as a cleaner in order to support himself and was granted Swedish citizenship in 1992.

But his life changed forever when he arrested on September 2001, not long after he published a series of articles demanding political reforms in a paper he founded in the country.

He has been behind bars ever since and sightings of him have been few and far between, leading to speculation that he is dead.

Don't miss: It's time Sweden takes Dawit Isaak seriously

"Until the contrary is proved then we must believe that he is alive. We must never waver," said Jeanette Gustafsdotter of media organisation Utgivarna.

Previous attempts to engineer Isaak's release have fallen on deaf ears. In 2012 Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said the ministry were prioritizing the case but as yet there has been little known developments.

It's understood that several other captives who shared the prison with Isaak have since died but that has not discouraged hope from the campaigners.

"Everything suggests that he is still alive. I think most Swedes know who Dawit Isaak is, however there is the risk that he now represents a symbol. We wish to put it in minds that this is a real person who is still in a death camp without trial," Ola Larsmo of the association of writers told the Upsala Nya Tidning.

The fresh demand for Isaak's release coincides with the publication of an article by two Swedish journalist who were held captive in Syria.

Magnus Falkehed and photographer Niclas Hammarström were abducted and held for two months before being being released. Under a special arrangement Swedish newspapers Aftonbladet and Dagens Nyheter published their story recalling their experience in the troubled region on Sunday. 

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