Witness Account of Imprisoned Dawit Isaak
An eye witness account, the first in several years, has been given on the health and living conditions of the swedish-eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak, who was imprisoned by the eritrean authorities nine years ago, following a crackdown on independent media in the country.
Stockholm based eritrean journalist Mehari Abraham has told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, how he met one of Dawit Isaak's prison guards last year and heard from him how the 43 year old was being held at the notorious secret prison camp "Eiraeiro" which is reserved for mostly political prisoners.
Abraham recounted how Dawit Isaak sits in handcuffs in a small cell and receives little food or water. He was described as thin, but in better shape than some prisoners, several of whom were blind from diabetes. Isaak, who has a wife and three children living in Gothenburg in the west of Sweden, is known as prisoner number 36.
Dawit Isaak moved to Sweden in 1987. He was arrested in Eritrea in 2001 along with a number of other open critics of the government. He'd beeen campaigning for the right to freedom of speech for the Eritrean people in the independent newspaper he had founded. He's been detained, without trial, ever since.
Last December, the EU parliament took up his case (Dawit Isaak is an EU citizen) whereby its president at the time Jerzy Buzek drafted a letter to the Eritrean government demanding Isaak's release along woth other journalists arrested in 2001.
Two Swedish MEP's Eva Britt Svensson and Olle Schmidt, held a seminar in Strasborug in which they discussed how the EU was set to give 115 million euros in aid to Eritrea. They said that any aid negotiations should include the release of the prisoners.
Back in Sweden, the media, and Dagens Nyheter in particular, has long campaigned to free Dawit Isaak, and the "quiet diplomacy" work by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has come in for some criticism.
Jesper Bengtsson, the president of the Swedish section of Reporters Without Borders has said how " It is a disgrace that Dawit remains in prison and it is remarkable that the Swedish government does not try harder to get him released."
Carl Bildt has continued to defend the government's diplomacy.