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Journalist Dawit Isaak held without trial for almost eight years, believed to be seriously ill

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls for Urgent Action as Fears Grow over Ordeal of Journalist in Eritrea

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for urgent humanitarian action by the international community over the plight of Dawit Isaak, a journalist and writer who has been held in Eritrea without trial for almost eight years and who is believed to be seriously ill.

"This case is of a scale of injustice and suffering that requires immediate action," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The ordeal that has been endured is intolerable and now we fear that he is dangerously ill. The world cannot stand by and let this continue."

This week, members of the European Parliament meeting in Strasbourg called for intervention to verify his state of health.

Isaak's case has been taken up by the IFJ and other press freedom groups with the support of journalists in Sweden, where he arrived 22 years ago as a refugee from war in Ethiopia. He returned to his native Eritrea after independence and helped launch the country's first independent newspaper.

In September 2001, he was arrested along with 21 other independent journalists and reformist politicians and has been held ever since, although he was briefly freed in 2005.

"The suffering of this journalist is unconscionable," said White. "We call for his unconditional release on humanitarian and health grounds. It is unspeakable that he should be held in conditions of secrecy, never brought to trial, cut off from his family and friends and now, according to reports we have received, in dangerously failing health."

The IFJ is concerned because of reports that he has been transferred from prison to hospital in recent days and is working with Swedish and European campaigners to try to put pressure on Eritrean officials in the capital, Asmara, to allow him visitors.

"We welcome the European Parliament's call for action," said White. "It is time for the Eritrean government to show compassion and to set him free."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide.

Updates the Isaak case:

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