Sweden sends envoy to Eritrea for jailed journalist

The Swedish government said on Friday it had sent a representative to Eritrea, amid press reports that the envoy was sent to secure the release of imprisoned Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaac.

The Swedish ambassador to Eritrea “Bengt Sparre has been forced to temporarily leave the country for personal reasons”, Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman Aasa Arvidsson told AFP.

The Swedish envoy was sent to Asmara to replace Sparre, Arvidsson said, refusing to give the envoy’s name or specify if he would actively work for Isaac’s release.

But according to the Scandinavian country’s paper of record Dagens Nyheter, Carl Magnus Hyltenius arrived in Asmara on Thursday and held talks with Eritrean government officials “in order to underline the importance of the Dawit Isaac case”.

Contradictory reports have surfaced over Isaac’s fate over the past week.

On November 19, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Swedish ambassador announced that the Eritrean government had freed Isaac after four years in prison.

But Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu told AFP a few days later that Isaac, an Eritrean who obtained Swedish citizenship in the 1980s, was only briefly released for a medical check-up.

After initially celebrating his release, Sparre and other Swedish officials, who have fought for Isaac’s release for several years, have remained tight-lipped about the case.

Isaac is one of about a dozen newspaper owners, editors and journalists who have been held for four years accused of being Ethiopian “traitors” and “spies”, according to RSF.