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ERITREA

Dawit Isaak ‘may be dead’: report

Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak, who has been imprisoned in Eritrea since 2001, has been moved from prison and may be dead, according to Swedish journalist Lars Adaktusson.

Dawit Isaak 'may be dead': report

Speaking on his radio programme Radio 1, Adaktusson cited credible sources from Eritrea’s opposition movement as indicating that Isaak is no longer in the Eira Eiro prison because he is dead.

However, the information hasn’t been officially confirmed.

“We have no information to confirm either that he has been moved or that he is dead,” Anna Backlund at the Swedish foreign ministry’s informaion department told The Local.

The foreign ministry will now make a thorough investigation whether there is any information from within the ministry organisation indicating that there is any basis to the rumours about Isaak’s death.

Mehari Abraham, an Eritrean-exile commentator and journalist at TV-Zete in Stockholm is one who believes that Isaak is no longer alive.

“It’s very credible information but it’s extremely hard to get it confirmed,” he told the TT news agency.

While the information hasn’t been officially confirmed, the sources claiming that Isaak is no long in the prison have been right about ten previous deaths.

However, Leif Öbrink, chair of the Free Dawit Isaak campaign, was highly critical of the spreading of the information about Isaak’s supposed death, calling it “speculation”.

“This has been circulating for several weeks, this information. No one believes it. I think it’s totally wrong to go out with it,” he told TT, questioning the motives of Adaktusson and Abraham.

“What does he want? To discredit the regime? One has to bear such things in mind,” Öbrink said of Abraham.

“This is sensationalism from Adaktusson’s side.”

Isaak’s daughter Bethlehem also cast doubt on reports that her father was dead.

“We don’t believe this information,” she told the Expressen newspaper.

Arhe Hamednace, a Social Democrat MP of Eritrean decent, is concerned the reports may be accurate.

He explained on the radio programme that he received reports about Isaak about two months ago.

“There were some people who called me. One high-placed person that works in an organistation with international contacts called me and said that ‘we have information, we’ve heard that Dawit is no longer alive’,” said Hamednaca.

He later contacted sources in his own network in Eritrea but failed to get the information confirmed.

“But we know how this regime acts. No one who is a high-ranking politician or government critic has come out alove from this prison,” he said on Adaktusson’s programme.

Thomas Mattsson, editor of the Expressen newspaper, which has been at the centre of the movement to draw attention to Isaak’s case and win his freedom, said the report that the imprisoned journalist may be dead was “terrible news”.

“Terrible if it’s true. Nearly as terrible if it’s not true – Dawit Isaak has a wife and three children and it’s with them that our thoughts go now. I really hope this is a misunderstanding, a mistake.”

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ERITREA

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.
 
 
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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.”
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