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Swedish journalist marks 15 years in Eritrean jail

Updated fredag 23 september 2016 kl 11.39
Published fredag 23 september 2016 kl 09.37
Journalist Martin Schibbye: Time to ask ourselves how can we improve the situation between Sweden and Eritrea
(5:29 min)
Så länge har Dawit Isaak suttit fängslad.
Dawit Isaak has been imprisoned for 15 years. Credit: Lasse Nilsson/Sveriges Radio.

Friday, September 23, marks the fifteenth anniversary of the imprisonment in Eritrea of the Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak.

Isaak came to Sweden as a refugee in 1985 and became a Swedish citizen before moving back to Eritrea where he launched the country's first independent newspaper. However, after reporting on criticism against the Eritrean regime, he was arrested on September 23, 2001.

Dawit Isaak has never been convicted of any crimes and Sweden's Foreign Ministry has never been allowed by Eritrea to see him, with the motivation that he is an Eritrean as well as a Swedish citizen. Nobody knows for certain whether he is still alive, but the ministry's head of communications Anna Björkander told news agency TT they work on the presumption that he is.

"That Eritrea's foreign minister Osman Saleh last summer said that Dawit Isaak is treated well, and that some type of legal process can be expected, is something that we welcome. It gives some hope of an underway internal process for a release," Björkander told TT.

Sweden's silent diplomacy in the case has often been criticised, but the Foreign Ministry maintains that it is hard at work. But Björkander said meetings are held with Eritrea on a regular basis, and that the silence is a strategy that benefits Isaak.

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