Swedish publishers to print Dawit Isaak texts

A number of Sweden's largest publishing houses announced plans on Monday to put out a translation of works by Dawit Isaak, a journalist imprisoned in Eritrea for nearly a decade without trial to highlight his case.

Swedish publishers to print Dawit Isaak texts

“Ten major publishing houses in Sweden are joining forces to publish Swedish translations of writings by Dawit Isaak,” the publishers said in a joint statement.

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

His friends and family have had no contact with him for years and it remains unclear where he is being held, but Swedish media quoted a former guard earlier this year saying the journalist was at the high-security Eraeiro secret prison near Asmara and appeared to be in poor health.

Isaak “has been denied his fundamental human rights and has never been prosecuted, given a trial or allowed to have legal representation,” Monday’s statement lamented, insisting that the Swedish national “is the only journalist and EU citizen being treated in this way in the world.”

Media and activists in Sweden and abroad have long demanded Isaak’s release, while Sweden’s foreign ministry has been trying to secure his freedom through diplomatic channels, but to no avail.

The Swedish publishing houses compared their decision to jointly put out Isaak’s works to “when German publishers together published Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses” after Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill the British author and his publishers for blasphemy.

The book, titled “Hope, the Tale of Moses’ and Manna’s Love and other Texts,” will be published and presented on September 23 at the Gothenburg Book Fair, the publishers said.

Nearly everyone involved in putting out the first-ever translation of Isaak’s texts into a European language had worked for free, they said, adding that all the proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the journalist.

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Swedish rights group reports Eritrea to police for ‘torture and kidnapping’

Sweden's chapter of Reporters Without Borders has filed a complaint accusing Eritrea's regime of human rights abuses over the imprisonment of Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak in 2001.

Swedish rights group reports Eritrea to police for 'torture and kidnapping'
A sign from a September 2011 demonstration for Dawit Isaak's release
The complaint was directed at Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and seven other high ranking political leaders, including Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed.
Handed over to Swedish police by RSF and Isaak's brother, the complaint accused them of “crimes against humanity, enforced disappearance, torture and kidnapping”.
It was also signed by human rights advocates like Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
On September 23, 2001, Isaak was arrested shortly after the Eritrean newspaper he founded, Setit, published articles demanding political reforms.   
According to RSF, he and his colleagues detained at the same time are now the journalists who have been imprisoned the longest in the world.
Isaak had fled to Sweden in 1987 during Eritrea's struggle against Ethiopia which eventually led to independence in 1993. He returned in 2001 to help shape the media landscape.
RSF ranks Eritrea as the world's third most repressive country when it comes to press freedom, behind North Korea and Turkmenistan.
Similar complaints have been filed before, including in 2014 when a new law took effect in Sweden enabling the prosecution for such crimes even if committed elsewhere in the world.
The prosecutor-general at the time concluded that while there were grounds to suspect a crime and open an investigation, doing so “would diminish the possibility that Dawit Isaak would be freed.”
Bjorn Tunback, coordinator for RSF Sweden's work on the Dawit Isaak case, said they hoped this time would be different after Foreign Minister Ann Linde last year said that despite repeated calls for Isaak's release “no clear changes are yet to be noted in Eritrea.”
Tunback said the minister's statements indicated that diplomatic channels had been exhausted.
“Diplomacy has its course, but when that doesn't lead anywhere, there is also the legal route,” Tunback told AFP.
“The law is there to protect individuals… and that is what we're testing now.”