Radio Netherlands

Dawit Isaak, a journalist who has been held without trial in Eritrea for over eight years, is to have a fair trial, Swedish parliamentarian Eva-Britt Svensson said on Wednesday, following her meeting with an Eritrean official in Brussells.


“He said that all Eritreans have a right to a trial, and that Mr. Isaak will have a trial,” Svensson said.

Svensson, a Swedish MP at the European Union parliament in Brussells, on April 12 met with Girma Asmerom Tesfay, Eritrea’s ambassador for Belgium. Svensson’s spokesman said the ambassador did not give further details on Isaak, or on the possible trial, during the meeting.

Isaak is a Swedish-Eritrean journalist who has been held without a trial in his home country since September 2001. He fled his country during the civil war and had settled in Sweden. Nevertheless, he continued visiting Eritrea throughout the years and established Setit, the country’s first independent newspaper, which was often critical of Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki.

In April 2001, Isaak returned to Eritrea. He was arrested in September 2001, along with 13 politicians and 10 journalists. He was released in November 2005 but arrested again three days later. No formal charges have ever been lodged against Isaak.

Isaak’s brother Esayas has been campaigning from Sweden for Dawit’s release. Esayas said he was sceptical about the ambassador’s statement. “I don’t trust them,” Isaak said, referring to Eritrean officials.

Speaking over the telephone from Gothenburg in Sweden, Isaak points out that Eritrean officials have given conflicting messages about his brother over the years. While some officials have promised that his brother would be released, Essayas referred to an interview Afewerki gave to a Swedish broadcaster last year. “He said in the interview that ‘we will never release him, we will never give him a trial,” Esayas Isaak says.

In the past years, the Swedish government and politicians have repeatedly brought up Isaak’s imprisonment to Eritrean officials