Journalist jailed in Eritrea for seven years

Journalist jailed in Eritrea for seven years
Today marks the seventh anniversary since Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak was arrested and put in an Eritrean prison.

Four other journalists imprisoned at the same time have died in their cells.

On the anniversary of the arrest, several groups working for Isaak’s release are petitioning the Eritrean embassy.

Each group has submitted a protest letter and within the week Leif Öbrink, head of the Free Dawit support group, will meet with staff from the embassy.

“I want to try to get permission to travel there and see Dawit and see how he’s doing. The foreign ministry has also been working on it, but hasn’t succeeded,” he said to the TT news agency.

Isaak has a wife and three children in Gothenburg. Neither they nor anyone else has been allowed to contact him.

Through sources in Eritrea, Öbrink knows that Isaak is doing well under the circumstances.

“But seven years in a prison cell has its effects. Still, he’s doing better than many other journalists who were arrested at the same time, thanks to the work of the foreign ministry and all of the news reports about him,” said Öbrink.

Thirteen journalists and several Eritrean opposition political leaders were arrested in a police raid in 2001.

At the same time, the Eritrean government banned free press in the country.’

According to Reporters Without Borders, four of the journalists have died in prison. One has been released and now resides in Sweden.

Isaak came to Sweden twenty years ago as a refugee, and became a Swedish citizen in 1992.

He and his wife, along with their three children, took up residence in Gothenburg.

When Eritrea gained independence, Isaak returned to the country without his family to work for Setit, an independent news magazine.

In September 2001, the magazine published an open letter from political dissidents which demanded democracy, justice and transparency.

Shortly thereafter, Isaak and around twenty other journalists and opposition members were arrested, and all independent and privately owned media outlets were banned.

Since then he’s sat in prison without a trial.

Isaak was released once in November 2005, but was arrested two days later on his way to see a doctor.

Eritrea’s expressed opinion on the case of Isaak , who holds both Swedish and Eritrean citizenship, is that it is an Eritrean matter which has nothing to do with Sweden.