Dawit Isaak is Sweden’s only conscience prisoner.
Isaak is a Swedish citizen and has been injured in a prison in Eritrea since 2001 – without trial.
His only crime was to tell the truth.
On Friday, Dawit fills 54. It is 16th birthday he is forced to spend in prison.
Those who have read Expressen in the last ten years have certainly seen the box on the culture pages about Dawit Isaak. The one who tells how many days the Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak has been detained in Eritrea without being convicted of any crime.
READ MORE: ”Dawit Isaac’s only crime is his courage”
The Expressen box is a reminder of readers and Dawit Isaak’s family and friends.
A reminder to never forget Isaak and his struggle to be an independent journalist.
Who is Dawit Isaak?
The journalist, author and dramatist Dawit Isaak was born October 27, 1964 in Eritrea, which was then part of Ethiopia. Isaac grew up with his five siblings and lived in the parents’ Italian delicatessen shop.
In 1987, Isaac came to Sweden and Lerum as a refugee. There he worked as a cleaner and engaged simultaneously for a free Eritrea.
READ MORE: Dawit Isaac has been in prison for many days
In 1992 he became a Swedish citizen, but he moved back in 1993 when Eritrea became independent. The future looked bright for the new country and Dawit got married and got three children.
In 1996, a press team was made that made it possible to launch private newspapers in Eritrea. In the following year, Isaac, together with some journalists, founded the country’s first independent newspaper Setit. But when a new war broke out between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 1998, Isaac returned to Sweden with his family.
READ MORE: 5,000 days of shamefully long time in a cell
In 2001, Dawit returned Isaac alone to Eritrea. The political situation was then extremely unstable. So when his newspaper Setit published a call to President Isaias Afewerki to announce free elections, the regime returned hard.
On Sunday morning, September 23, 2001, Dawit Isaak was arrested by the police. The arrest wave against leading journalists in Eritrea occurred two weeks after September 11, when the eyes of the world were directed towards New York.
With the exception of two days in 2005, he has been detained since then.
READ MORE: Express’s special site about Dawit Isaak
This is Eritrea
Until 1991, Eritrea was part of Ethiopia. However, on May 29, 1991, Eritrea proclaimed its independence, which was recognized only two years later. Since its founding, the country has been ruled by Isaias Afewerki (born 1946) who is both state and government chief and spokesman in the country’s parliament.
READ MORE: He controls the country with iron hand
Eritrea is a one-party state governed by the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice. The country has not implemented any free and independent choices ever. The planned elections in 1997 were arrested because of the war against Ethiopia where over 100,000 soldiers died.
That is why Isaak was arrested by the police in Eritrea
Dawit Isaak moved back to Eritrea after independence. Together with some other journalists, Eritrea’s first independent newspaper, Setit, was launched after a river that constitutes a little bit of the border with Ethiopia.
In 2001, politicians and ministers in the government began to criticize how Isaias Afewerki ruled the country. Setit reported on the so-called 15 group, G15, which demanded democratic reforms in the country.
READ MORE: ”Dawit is the symbol of freedom of speech”
The 15 group demanded that human rights, as well as the country’s constitution be respected. They also demanded free and independent elections, and that more parties than the ruling party People’s Front for Democracy and Justice were to be approved.
In the wake of September 11th in the United States, the regime struck the critics.
READ MORE: Eritrea actually has a proud story – and now Dawit Isaak should be released
September 18-23, all independent media were closed in the country and ten journalists were arrested. From the G15 three land fled, one retired, and the other eleven were arrested.
None of the journalists or G15 members have been charged with any crime.
According to the Eritrean regime, Isaac is imprisoned for crimes against the security of the country.
”We will not let him go or put him to justice. We know how to deal with him and others like him, ”said President Isaias Afwerki in an interview in Expressen 2009.
READ MORE: Eritrea’s President: Will not Release Dawit
Why does the Express require Dawit Isaak to be free?
”He is a husband, a father – but also a symbol of not only the freedom of the people of the Eritrean for freedom of expression and expression, but also for freedom of the press,” said Thomas Mattsson, chief executive editor of the Express.
What happened to the others arrested?
The regime in Eritrea’s capital Asmara treats the other journalists and members of the G15 group in the same way: by saying nothing.
If Dawit Isaak says that he is good at the prison.
Those who were in this prison witnessed the inhumane conditions under which the prisoners live, where temperatures can go up to 50 degrees during the summer and there prisoners are tortured on a regular basis.
READ MORE: Dawit Isaac’s daughter: ”I think he lives”
Where is Dawit Isaak today?
At the end of 2008, Isaac was moved from the Karsheli prison in Asmara to the Eirae troop outside the capital. This second prison has the reputation of being very tough and you treat your prisoners badly there.
In May 2013, the expelled prison police Saeed Saleh told Expressen that Dawit Isaak was alive but sick:
– I have 100 percent sure data that Dawit lives. He is still isolated in the Eiraeiro prison and he is ill. The president’s own security service is in charge of him, he said.
In June 2016, Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Saleh said in an exclusive interview with the French radio RFI that Dawit Isaak lives.
READ MORE: The prison police: Dawit Isaak lives
How did the world raise the eyes of Dawit Isaak?
In 2003, Dawit Isaak Reporters Received Without Frontiers Press Freedom Prize. After that, several organizations began to actively work to get Isaak and his detained colleagues released.
On Saturday November 19, 2005, Dawit Isaak was released. But freedom was short and he was soon arrested. In the same year, Dawit Isaak was nominated to UNESCO Unesco Press Press Prize by IFJ, International Federation of Journalists.
Every week, the Free Dawit organization has watched the Eritrea embassy in Sweden with protest letters and demands that Dawit be released, but without results. The Embassy does not accept the protests and has consistently chosen not to pronounce.