Swedish reporters plan prison protest

Two Swedish journalists are planning to go to jail of their own accord in a bid to draw attention to the plight of other writers in captivity.

John Wirfält and his colleague Sara Murillo Cortes plan to be incarcerated at the Kronoberg facility in Kungsholmen, Stockholm, to raise awareness of the ongoing cases involving Dawit Isaak, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson and also to openly criticise the government for not doing more to get them released.

Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak has been held in an Eritrean prison since 2001 without trial and is considered a traitor by the Eritrean government.

Amnesty International has highlighted his case frequently and has called for his immediate and unconditional release.

Freelance reporters Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson have been held in an Ethiopian jail since the beginning of July, facing terrorist charges.

The two Swedish journalists were allegedly in the country investigating Lundin Petroleum, a Swedish oil and mining company, at the time they were arrested together with members of the ONLF guerilla, according to reports in the Swedish media.

Wirfält told daily Dagens Nyheter (DN), ”This is a new way to draw further attention to the imprisoned Swedish journalists Dawit Isaak, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson. We want to show our criticism of the foreign ministry, which has been the case with Dawit for several years, but also in the second case (Schibbye and Persson). We also want to highlight the vulnerable situation that freelance journalists find themselves in when they go out without having the back-up of an editorial team.”

He added that they are hoping many more journalists will join in with their action, claiming that 40 others have already pledged their support.

The protesting pair plan their prison stay sometime before October 15, when the trial of Schibbye and Persson is set to take place in Ethiopia.

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Swedish rights group reports Eritrea to police for ‘torture and kidnapping’

Sweden's chapter of Reporters Without Borders has filed a complaint accusing Eritrea's regime of human rights abuses over the imprisonment of Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak in 2001.

Swedish rights group reports Eritrea to police for 'torture and kidnapping'
A sign from a September 2011 demonstration for Dawit Isaak's release
The complaint was directed at Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and seven other high ranking political leaders, including Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed.
Handed over to Swedish police by RSF and Isaak's brother, the complaint accused them of “crimes against humanity, enforced disappearance, torture and kidnapping”.
It was also signed by human rights advocates like Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
On September 23, 2001, Isaak was arrested shortly after the Eritrean newspaper he founded, Setit, published articles demanding political reforms.   
According to RSF, he and his colleagues detained at the same time are now the journalists who have been imprisoned the longest in the world.
Isaak had fled to Sweden in 1987 during Eritrea's struggle against Ethiopia which eventually led to independence in 1993. He returned in 2001 to help shape the media landscape.
RSF ranks Eritrea as the world's third most repressive country when it comes to press freedom, behind North Korea and Turkmenistan.
Similar complaints have been filed before, including in 2014 when a new law took effect in Sweden enabling the prosecution for such crimes even if committed elsewhere in the world.
The prosecutor-general at the time concluded that while there were grounds to suspect a crime and open an investigation, doing so “would diminish the possibility that Dawit Isaak would be freed.”
Bjorn Tunback, coordinator for RSF Sweden's work on the Dawit Isaak case, said they hoped this time would be different after Foreign Minister Ann Linde last year said that despite repeated calls for Isaak's release “no clear changes are yet to be noted in Eritrea.”
Tunback said the minister's statements indicated that diplomatic channels had been exhausted.
“Diplomacy has its course, but when that doesn't lead anywhere, there is also the legal route,” Tunback told AFP.
“The law is there to protect individuals… and that is what we're testing now.”