Ex-ministers: change tactics to free Isaak

Ex-ministers: change tactics to free Isaak
Former government ministers Thomas Bodström and Jan Eliasson, have urged the government to find a new approach for how to get Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak released from prison in Eritrea.

In an opinion piece in daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD), Bodström, former Social Democratic minister for justice, and Eliasson, former Social Democratic foreign minister, urge the centre-right government to change their approach to securing Isaak’s release by appointing him legal representation.

”Ten years of silent diplomatic efforts. For nothing. Eritrea hasn’t cared at all,” the MPs wrote.

The time for diplomatic dealings is over, Bodström and Eliasson argue.

Instead the Swedish government needs to pursue the release of Isaak through legal channels, starting with appointing the imprisoned reporter legal representation.

Through supporting the Habeas Corpus writ filed by Swedish lawyers Percy Bratt and Jesús Alcalá together with French lawyer Prisca Orsonneau, the government could demand to be allowed to see Isaak and finally find out on what grounds the Eritrean authorities are claiming to be holding Isaak in seclusion and without charging him.

This, Bodström and Eliasson wrote, should be doable, as the legal system in the country is supposed to be independent.

”It is not possible to wait any longer. It is time for prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and foreign minister Carl Bildt to act,” they wrote.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Thursday urged the Eritrean government to release the Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak, nine other reporters and eleven politicians free.

They have all been incarcerated for ten years without a trial and with no contact with the rest of the world.

Ashton also demanded that the responsible in Eritrea make public where the prisoners are being held and give them the opportunity to see their families and get legal reprsentation.

Dawit 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 but 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. Although released once in November 2005, he was subsequently 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.

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