IT IS a birthday present he may never hear, but it reminds the world he is alive – campaigners have released a song to mark 15 years in captivity as Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak turns 52 in jail.

Arrested for reporting on a series of letters calling for advances in democracy in the African nation, Isaak has been held without trial or contact with loved ones or legal representation since he was 36.

His first birthday under incarceration came shortly after and on Thursday his latest celebration was marked by friends and family campaigning for his release. This includes brother Esayas Isaak, who lives in the family’s adopted home of Sweden, where Dawit holds joint citizenship.

Now the Sweden-based Free Dawit campaign has released an English-language song to remind the world of his plight.

Meanwhile, The National, which has agreed to take up Dawit’s case, is inviting readers to add their voices to calls for his release.

Campaigners from the Glasgow group of human rights charity Amnesty International have repeated petitioned leaders in capital city Asmara, also asking for news of Dawit’s location and condition.

Letters can be sent to President Isais Afewerki, Justice Minister Fawzia Hashim and Estifanos Habtemariam Ghebreyesus, the country’s ambassador to the UK. Emails can also be sent to the Eritrean embassy in London.

Activist Alex Jackson, who spent many years in the country and was himself detained by officials before returning to Scotland, said: “If we do nothing then we are allowing bad things to go on with impunity, with no comment.

“We know the effect letters can have. Worldwide, we have examples where the decision makers say ‘there is a large body of opinion out there that we have got to listen to’. You never know which drop will cause the dam to burst.

“There is evidence that the dam is cracking. There are signs of the Eritrean government being willing to negotiate, debate and discuss.

“They are talking to the European Union, they are talking to the United Nations. Recently they allowed the UN to inspect a prison. It was a small step but a significant one. Eritreans are the single largest group of refugees coming into the UK. That fact alone makes what happens in Eritrea significant for people here.

He added: “Even if there is no sign that the door is moving, you should keep pushing it. Maybe it will open.”

Meanwhile, the newly-released song, titled Bird Song, urges Dawit to “hold on” from his cell, where is understood to be in solitary confinement, asking: “Can you see the moonlight? Tell me, are there even windows? Do you hear bird noise?.

Recorded under the name Together For Dawit, the piece follows a Swedish-language version and features vocals by musicians from Senegal, Mali, Sweden and America and is available on YouTube, iTunes and Spotify.

Campaigners said it is “about love, being deeply missed, freedom and to speak up for those who been silenced”.

Responding, Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s Scotland Programme Director, said: “We appreciate The National highlighting the campaign to free disappeared Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak on the weekend of his birthday.

“He has been unfairly imprisoned since September 2001 after being arrested with nine other independent journalists – some of whom have died behind bars.

“Dawit Isaak has endured hunger strikes and grave illness during his time in prison but the Eritrean government refuses to confirm any details of his case.

“Amnesty Local Group activists in Scotland are campaigning for his release as well as for other journalists who have been persecuted for reporting human rights abuses. We hope National readers will join them and help us free prisoners of conscience.”