Dawit Isaak back in Eritrean jail

Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaac has been imprisoned again in Eritrea after being briefly released last month following four years behind bars, his Swedish support group said on Friday.

“Our channels in Eritrea have confirmed that he is back in prison,” head of the group Leif Öbrink told AFP.

On November 19th, international media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Swedish ambassador in Eritrea Bengt Sparre announced that Isaac had been freed after four years in prison.

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

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

“We know that he was completely free on Saturday November 19th, but then he was picked up again on Monday the 21st and returned to prison,” Öbrink said on Friday.

“He was told he was free. We have no idea why the government changed its mind,” he said, adding that the support group would continue working for Isaac’s liberation.

“We are still a bit optimistic. We’re going to get this done,” he said.

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.

The organization this year ranked Eritrea 166th out of 167 countries in its annual report on press freedom violations.