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EU urged to halt aid to Eritrea

The European Union should halt aid to Eritrea until a Swedish-Eritrean journalist and other prisoners at an Eritrean "death camp" are released or given a fair trial, Swedish media and rights groups said Monday, to mark World Press Freedom Day.

Several journalists have died in Eritrean prison
Swedish journalist held in tough Eritrean jail
“Release Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak”

Demonstrations across Sweden also demanded the release of Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak, arrested in September 2001 with a dozen newspaper owners, editors and journalists accused of being Ethiopian spies.

He and other reporters and opposition politicians are reportedly being held at the high-security Eraeiro secret prison near Asmara where a former guard said conditions are extremely harsh and Isaak appears to be in poor health.

"The EU's aid to Eritrea must gradually be halted," the Swedish chapters of rights groups like Reporters Without Borders and PEN, and journalist and publishing associations, said on World Press Freedom Day.

It should be stopped "until the Eraeiro death camp is closed, its prisoners are given medical care ... and released or given an open trial on the 'crimes' they are suspected of," they wrote in an opinion piece in the Dagens Nyheter daily.

According to the piece, the EU's total aid package to Eritrea in coming years totals 312 million euros (413 million dollars).

The appeal came amid new reports on harsh conditions at the jail and as a number of demonstrations across Sweden Monday also called for the release of the reporter, now 45.

"The Swedish government has been talking with Eritrea now for nine years. It is time to stop talking. We need to halt aid and freeze all international contact with the Eritrean government," said Leif Oebrink, who heads up a support committee for the imprisoned journalist.

"That's the only thing that will help. Money talks," he told AFP on the sidelines of a small demonstration in Stockholm.

Isaak's brother Esayas agreed.

"The prisoners are dying one by one. How long will it take before the world reacts and puts pressure on Eritrea to release the political prisoners?" he told the TT news agency.

Last month the first information in years pinpointing Isaak's whereabouts and describing the conditions of his detention emerged in Sweden, and on Monday new accounts from a former guard at the Eraeiro prison surfaced.

Isaak "complains all the time, asking for 'medicine, medicine', ... I think he has mental problems," ex-guard Eyob Bahta Habtemariam told the Expressen daily.

Habtemariam, in hiding in Ethiopia, said he had last seen Isaak on January 5, right before he himself fled from Eritrea.

He said Isaak was held handcuffed nearly around the clock in solitary confinement in a windowless cell measuring only 12 square metres (130 square feet).

The prisoners there were not tortured, but according to Habtemariam, the suffocating heat and isolation "was worse than torture".

"When I started working (at the prison) nine years ago, there were 35 prisoners. Fifteen of them are dead today," he told Expressen, adding that three of the dead had killed themselves.

"There is a risk (Isaak) will kill himself," Habtemariam insisted.

Oebrink said his organisation considered Habtemariam's account "credible", and said it was very worrying to learn Isaak was at Eraeiro.

"No one has never gotten out of there alive," he said.

Last Updated (Thursday, 06 May 2010 19:52)



#16 2010-05-03 22:20
Okay, to stop aid untill Isaak is released means in other words to kill hundreds of children to free one person who made mistake or not fellowed the rule of his country. This is Sweden nazi logic.
As Eritreans is concerned, Sweden and all of the rest who just lobby for other interest are irrelevant.
#15 2010-05-03 20:54
On May 26, 2009, during an interview with the Swedish TV4 (channel 4) the president of Eritrea dismissed the issue of Mr. Isaak altogether by saying "We will not have any trial and we will not free him. We know how to handle his kind." and "To me, Sweden is irrelevant. The Swedish government has nothing to do with us."
#14 2010-05-03 20:09
Report what? to whom? for whom?
As a tigrayan, you should be ashamed of your "hizb dehninet" history and try to hide it than flount it shamelessly. Hasawi dirbay gohaf..
Quoting michael zere:
.We have started a group focused in following HIGDEF dogs activities since they are into froud and illegal activities to report them and let the Justice and deported the man they love fro comfort zone.
#13 2010-05-03 19:51
National security my foot .It is time to crush this tyrant and his diaspora minions.We have started a group focused in following HIGDEF dogs activities since they are into froud and illegal activities to report them and let the Justice and deported the man they love fro comfort zone. We should slap them where it hurts since they dont feel other people pains it is high time to get rid of this Junta
#12 2010-05-03 17:58
National Security issue. Period.
I trust those defending Eritrea tha those trying to sell it to the highest bidder. Trust me, the truth would SHOCK you!!!
Quoting Blue:
.....CIA my ass.Quoting vitorio bossie:
Part 3
#11 2010-05-03 17:49
How did you know Dawit Issak was a "CIA scam"? If you think what you said is true then why don't you charge Dawit with the "CIA scam" your talking about then? plus how could you make any judgement with out hearing both sides of the story? As far as we the Eritreans and the world know, No charges has being put forward by any one against Dawit and the others.....CIA my ass.Quoting vitorio bossie:
Part 3
#10 2010-05-03 17:34
You do not have to support the "GoE" to love your country Eritrea...

You do not have to support DIA in order to love your Eritrea. ...

Quoting Lilly J:
Do not making foolish the Swedish people, by voicing that you give aid to Eritrea. Sweden had never give any single cent since 1998 to Eritrea. Stop wrong campagne. Eritrea do not like your aid.Eritrea needs partnership that respects mutual interest of both parties.
#9 2010-05-03 17:30
It is uncool and down right wrong to support imprisonment with out any rule of law. It is uncool and wrong to support Dictatorship. Isaias Afwerki is a dictator fact.
#8 2010-05-03 17:24
I admire the Swedes for doing the right thing. But they need to intensify their action. It has already over 8 years since Dawi Isaak and the other Eritrean independent journalist got imprisoned with out any charges and rule of law. 8 years with out a charge. The Eritrean "President" has said he has no intention for a rule of law officially.
#7 2010-05-03 17:01
Part 1
Habtemariam's claim is not credible at all. He is in Ethiopia, a country that has illegally occupied sovereign Eritrean since 1998.

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