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Dawit Isaak held in 'harsh' Eritrean jail

AFP/The Local · 8 Apr 2010, 07:39

Published: 08 Apr 2010 07:39 GMT+02:00

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Isaak is being held handcuffed nearly around the clock in solitary confinement in a windowless cell measuring only 12 square metres at the secret prison, some 50 kilometres from Asmara, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) daily reported.

The information, the first in years to pinpoint Isaak's whereabouts or describe the conditions of his detention, came from a 37-year-old Eritrean refugee in Sweden who had worked at the Eiraeiro prison, the paper said, adding that for his security it would not reveal the man's identity.

An Eritrean with Swedish citizenship, Isaak was arrested in September 2001 along with a dozen newspaper owners, editors and journalists accused of being Ethiopian spies.

No charges have been filed and no trial has been held against the reporter, now 45.

Isaak, whose head had been shaved, was "thin" but considered by prison officials to be strong enough to require him to be shackled at all times during the day, according to the DN report.

A number of other high-profile prisoners, including former government ministers opposed to President Isaias Afeworki, were being held in the same prison, according to the paper's source.

Former foreign affairs minister Haide Woldetensae, former information minister Beraki Ghebreselasie and former fisheries minister Petros Solomon were all locked away at Eiraeiro, DN said.

Other reporters like Amanue Asrat and Fisahaye Yohannes were also being held there, as was film director Meriem Hagos, the paper said.

Around 15 of the initial 35 inmates at the seven-year-old high-security prison had died so far, while nine others were in very poor health, it reported.

Sweden's centre-right governement has been harshly criticised for not doing enough to secure Isaak's release, and DN pointed out that in the 3,118 days since the reporter was arrested, Stockholm's "silent diplomacy" approach had made little progress.

Story continues below…

Foreign Minister Carl Bildt however insisted to the paper that much was being done behind closed doors.

"We do not send out a press release each time we make contact" with Asmara, he told DN, adding that "we will not switch to a (more outspoken) policy that we are convinced will bring about worse results."

Last month, the Council of Europe called on Eritrean authorities to release Isaak, who has held Swedish citizenship since 1992.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:27 April 8, 2010 by Audrian
The policy of European countries towards African leaders is inconsistent. Dictators take advantage of it while ordinary people distrust Western intensions. Africa's dictators are human right abusers and corrupt. Unfortunately those that are rich in resources (e.g., Congo, Nigeria) as well as those with important strategic locations (e.g., Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea) are regarded as good dictators as long as they protect Western interests. Others are targeted for destabilization (e.g., Zimbabwe, Sudan)!

Democratic election (not rigged election) and the right of people to get rid of their leaders at any time of their choice will bring peace to that part of the world. EU should stop providing weapons and resources to governments that have not come to power through a popular mandate (fair election). Given this condition people like Dawit Isaak, who number in tens of thousands, will be free.
12:56 April 8, 2010 by DAVID T
Dawit Isaak is Eritrean and you think he would have known to speak out against the Eritrean goverment would end up with him in jail - why did he become a Swedish citizen in the first place? - he got himself into this mess why should Sweden help him out? He could have just stayed in Sweden but no - he had to go back.
14:16 April 8, 2010 by Kevin Harris
I wonder how many brave people in David T's home country have spoken out so that David is free to post on this forum.
16:11 April 8, 2010 by Nemesis
How is an Eritrean ending up in an Eritrean jail news?

He moved back to Eritrea in 2001.

He has dual nationality of Eritrean-Swedish nationality.

Also as he is a Swedish citizen, who came to Sweden as a refugee in 1987, then getting citizenship in 1992, before going back to Eritrea, what the hell did he move back to Eritrea for in 2001?

Regarding the critism of the Swedish government for not doing enough. Who was in power when he went to jail?
22:26 April 8, 2010 by wotist
Dawit Isaak went back to Eritrea long before 2001. Davit Isaak went back to Eritrea basically as soon as the ink of his Swedish citizenship was dry (in -92 or -93? not quite sure). Between then and now, he got married and had kids and the only time he's been back in Sweden is when he dropped off his wife and children in Sweden to live off of the taxpayers before going right back to Eritrea again.

If the situation was reversed, but say that we replace Eritrea with Australia, do you think that the Australian government would care much if a Swedish-born dual Swedish/Australian citizen ended up in jail in Sweden if he'd spent a similar amount of time in Australia in total? I bet they'd consider it to be a case of a Swedish man in a Swedish jail.

With that said, I do respect his work in helping trying to establish a free press in Eritrea.

Also worth noting is that Swedish leftists are not without guilt here. Among those who supported the communist guerrilla Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (current Eritrean government), you will find people such as Stieg Larsson. To the world he is best known as the author of the Millennium Trilogy. In Sweden he is perhaps best known for founding the "anti-nazy/anti-racist" (fascist) organistation EXPO. As a Trotskyist, he took it as his mission to support any freedom fighting organization. Atleast if it was of the communist kind. He trained the EPLF figheters in the use of weapons (artillery) as well as bringing money from Sweden.

Eritrea is not the only case. Leading Swedish socialists, including leading Social democrats, made a habit of supporting the scum of the earth as long as they were red scum. Leading Swedish socialists (including Soc. Dem) were chummy with Pol Pot of the Khmer Rouge, Castro in Cuba, Kim Ill Sung in North Korea, etc, etc.

People that will end up in government if the left wins this falls election in Sweden still belong to that group. The Social democrats limit themselves to such groups as Hezbollah, Fatah, etc now. I think the Left Party prefers Hamas over Fatah. The Left Party isn't choosy though. As long as your "anti-imperialist", you're alright.
20:03 April 9, 2010 by Gregory Allen Leeds
Eritrea has recently signed a contractual agreement with the government of Iran to dispose of their(700 tons last year)petro-chemical waste, by dumping off the Eritran coast line. This has resulted in increases monitoring of all violators of the Basel Convention that was put in place to negate the practice of toxic waste disposal by Organized Crime families in conflict zones for self enrichment. If Iran were to dump this waste off on their own Kish Iland, you could be sure it was "non-persistant".
23:40 April 9, 2010 by andyman
this guy needs a break, prison without trial should be looked at with questioning. some politicians should put a bit of preasure on before he dies in prision. which might be soon
13:10 April 12, 2010 by cbeynch
This ought to be a lesson to all you newcomers who elect to retain dual citizenship when you become Swedish. Generally accepted international diplomatic decorum is that in a situation like this, Isaak is considered "Eritrean" by his country of origin, and tgus subject to all Eritrean law! It works the other way too. If Isaak comitted an offense in Sweden, he can not seek assistance from any Eritrean diplomatic representation outside Eritrea. To Swedish law he is simply Swedish as long as he is in Sweden. Hence it may convinenient to, legally, carry two passports, but it also, as we see here, has its drawbacks.
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