‘Dawit Isaak’s alleged crimes are not his journalism, or his views – but his association with the G-15 opposition group’
BY MARTIN SCHIBBYE | BLANK SPOT *
New signs of life from Asmara. In an interview with Martin Schibbye, the Eritrean Minister of Information believes that a solution to the issue of Dawit Isaak must also provide a solution for all those arrested in 2001.
At the top of a mountain overlooking the capital Asmara, is the Eritrea Department of Information. The building is located on a cliff that is symbolically hovers over the city.
Since 2001, the Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak has been locked up without either prosecution or judgement. Something that prompted the UN to accuse Eritrea of crimes against humanity.
The Information Minister Yemame Gebremeskel is accustomed to talking about the case and is also one of those who can influence his fate.
But he thinks the case has been given too much proportions.
“Reducing the historical relationship between our countries to a misunderstanding about Dawit Isaak is unfortunate and unfair,” says the information minister in his office.
The substantive question is simple: regardless of the fact that Dawit is both Swedish and Eritrean, he believes that his crime has been committed in Eritrea and then the state in which the crime was committed must deal with it.
Dawit Isaak’s alleged crimes are, according to the minister, not his journalism, or his views – but that he was part of the opposition group G-15.
“He was in a group that we accuse of treason, so it is not possible to separate him from the group.
Q : I think the outside world would be very positive if you only show a sign of life from him, a hairline? Or did anyone meet him?
The problem is this: why is this a case that Sweden is pushing so hard that it almost risks the whole of EU cooperation with Eritrea? He is one of 15 people whom we charge for something serious, so why should Dawit be separated out of that group? We look at his case as we look at the other Eritreans who were arrested 2001.
Q : But if you look ahead – is there a solution in the future for the group? Any time frame for a trial?
It is not I who can answer that, I can only talk about it in abstract terms and point out that we cannot apply discrimination or specialize him just because he is also Swedish, when it’s a whole group it’s about. So what do you do then?
Q : Yes, what do you do?
He is treated like the other Eritreans, that he has a Swedish citizenship gives no special privileges.
* Softwarer translation from Swidish
Martin Schibbye has just returned from Eritrea and is working on a new, longer series of reports from the country. The above statements are part of further interviews with the ministers that addressed several issues and will be published in the future.