Eritrean Ikea Killer Wants to be Imprisoned in Eritrea, Inteview

First interview with Abraham Ukbagabir: “Whatever happens to me in Eritrea, I accept it”


The Ikea killer wants to be in prison in Eritrea


IKEA killer Abraham Ukbagabir killed a mother and her son in Ikea in Västerås.



Now he appeals to earn his sentence in Eritrea.



“Whatever happens to me in Eritrea, I accept it to 100 percent,” says Abraham Ukbagabir, freelance journalist Martin Schibbye in his first interview ever.



Was a disclosure a new way forward to improve relations with Eritrea?



A measure that makes it possible for the Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak who has been imprisoned for 6000 days today to be released?



Software Translation from Swedish | Feb 26, 2018

From far away you see the red roof of the yellow office. The road from the bus station in Tidaholm is icy. The snowplanes from the plow make it impossible to walk on the sidewalk. 



The facility has been in operation since 1959, but it is seen that it has been built in several rounds: the walls have become higher. Fitted several.



In front of the first outer gate, I hold my identification and a buzzing sound opens the gates.



Once inside the minimal visitor room with a green wall, a toilet and a blue plastic couch, I strike down.



“If you get attacked, the alarm is here,” says the uniformed guard, pointing to a button at the height of the floor. Then we will be many. And we’re coming soon.



Martin Schibbye meets Abraham Ukbagabir at Anstalten Tidaholm. The picture was taken at an earlier time.  Photo : Stefan Söderström



Then the door goes again with a bang and it becomes quiet.



Outside the window with armored glass lies the snow untouched. It is a few meters to the fence and then another few meters to the gray interior wall.


While I’m waiting, I’ll review what I remember from the news reporting. 
In August 2015, 36-year-old Abraham Ukbagabir entered the department store outside Västerås. After a while, he found himself at the housekeeping department and took two packs of knives.


On one package it was “Vörda” and on the other “Favorable”. He then went to a binge with cutting boards and tried to wipe the plastic around the blades, but the surveys showed that the plastic was tight.



On the films, it was seen that several customers passed by while he was working to blow up the packaging. After almost two minutes, he had removed the plastic and went straight to the first victim.



He stabbed the knife in the stomach of a woman with such a force that a spine in his spine was broken, then he went on to her son.



Within a few minutes, both were dead and Abraham Ukbagabir encountered one of the knives in his abdomen on himself.



So suddenly I hear the sound of steps and the sounding sounds of keys in the hallway. 
Abraham Ukbagabir comes in dressed in the custody’s gray soft clothes and green slippers.



He looks more sparkling than on the pictures from the trial.



The hair is short cut and he is freshly chopped. We take care and he gets down.





Two months earlier, Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, disappears in the rearview mirror. The journey is fast, even though it is weekend. Traffic is moderate.



In the back seat, Abraham Ukbagabir’s brother, Rober Berhene, seeks to call his mother.



But the signals do not go out. The network is down.



“He said he was sad at all, but I would not worry,” says Robert Uberbagabir’s brother Rober Berhene.  Photo : Martin Schibbye



Should I be honest, I’m surprised that he lives



Rober tells that the brother once called the prison in Sweden.



“Should I be honest, I’m surprised he lives. After what he did, I thought he would be killed. Europe seems to be different.



He was also surprised that the brother could work in prison and that he had a television.



– He said he was sad at all, but I would not worry, he had a bed and a room. It’s unimaginable!



In the streets, the cafes are full of people and the palms are planted in straight lines along the wide boulevards that lead out of the mythical city.



The traffic lights are all switched off but it is clean and well ordered.



The former Italian colony is usually described as iron-ruled by a totalitarian regime that captures journalists and other regime critics.



The Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak has been sitting behind bars since 2001 without trial.



When the car stops in a crossing, it is seen that the bells on the facades are still standing. The punch in several places has let go and the shutters hang on three-quarters.



The traffic lights in Asmara are closed but it is clean and well-ordered.  Photo : Martin Schibbye



Together with the Syrian and Iraqi krisaders, Eritrea is among the countries originally originated by most asylum seekers in Sweden.



“My brother Abraham left Eritrea when I was twelve years old, I remember it yesterday,” said Rober Berhene, putting down the phone in his knee.



After a further run, the road becomes worse and we leave the capital’s foundations behind us.



A few days ago, I tried to take the road south to the Ethiopian border, where Abraham Ukbagabir grew up, but I was not allowed to travel there.



Still, the situation between the two countries was tense. As he fled from the village, the war was over and the last grenades had burst.



The number of dead was estimated at 70,000-100,000 on both sides and many disappeared or became refugees.



One of them was the father and family of the family.



– Either he died in the war or he left mother and all of us children and got a new life, we do not know.



It was less painful to imagine he became a martyr.



– After the dad disappeared everything was about to survive. Abraham was the oldest son. Nobody had to say anything, everyone knew what was required of him.



I remember being proud of my big brother



Rober remembers last night before the brother fled illegally to Europe.



– I remember being proud of my big brother. We put all our hope with him.



The car turns off on all the smaller roads, and the soil and branches scratch under the body.


The driver is listening to the conversation even more curiously.


Photo : Martin Schibbye



The car slows in front of a gate of sheet metal and a dog begins to bark immediately. The gates along the entire street are thrown up and curious children gather quickly in cliffs.



“It’s clear that people are talking. My mother got sick of the news, but the decease also affects the whole family and family, explains Robel.



But then he adds:



“But that’s nothing compared to how the families of the murdered feel. It must be terrible, “he says, putting me in a courtyard beyond sight of the city’s main street.



The house consists of two rooms and a kitchen in front of a courtyard with paved lawn.



Besides the walls, bushes are planted and there is also laundry on them.



As with all farms, it is full of buckets full of water. The lack of water is a big problem.



In a corner is a stove walled to bake traditional bread. The dog Goffy has been locked into a minimal cage and continues to bark incessantly.


Abaraham Ukbagabir’s mother Okubit Towed in the garden.  Photo : Martin Schibbye



Mamman Okubit Tewerde comes out and greets to then invite me into the house.



More relatives join and we sink into a soft sofa around a smaller table. The sun’s rays look in.



When I introduce myself, mentioning the son’s name breaks the mother together. After a couple of minutes, she begins to tell: About the war against Ethiopia. The disappearance of the man. How she worked as a hometown of other families to support the children.



“He became our hero when he fled, and with his money we could survive. He saved nothing to himself but sent all the money here. He took his responsibility.



But she also realized that the son was having a hard time.



– He had money, but never accepted in Europe, I understood. And the years passed, “said Okubit Tewerde, waving away the fabric that had fallen into the face.



Next to her sits Abraham’s grandfather Teweide Zeme and nods.



Abraham Ukbagabir’s grandfather Teweide Zeme and mother Okubit Tewerde.  Photo : Martin Schibbye



When she was told that he had been in prison she broke up.



“It was the worst day of my life. I ended up in hospital. The doctor says I have to get healthcare abroad to get well, but the government does not allow it!



Then she tells me what her son has done.


– Why is he in prison?


After his application for asylum was rejected, he killed two people in a department store and was convicted of murder of two people.



– So he did not know them?



Yes .


– Then it was an accident?



It was murder.


– Is it true that he had twenty years in prison? They say that in the village.



Okubit Ted took in the fact that her son had killed two people.



– They were innocent people. Day and night I will pray for them, I feel ashamed and feel sad, says the mother, and becomes silent.



“I think of the families who have suffered more than my own child,” says Abraham Ukbagabir’s mother, Okubit Tewerde.  Photo :Martin Schibbye


They were innocent people. Day and night I will pray for them, I feel ashamed and feel sad



Everyone in the room follows her tight eyes.



– I can not find words to express myself. I think of the families who suffered more than my own child. God bless them!



Three months ago, Abraham called the mother in Eritrea and said he would earn his sentence in Eritrea.



“My sorrow will disappear if he comes here, then I will be happy.



But are you not worried about what can happen if he returns? That he may be tortured in Eritrea?



– So Sweden cares more about him? tabs the brother in.



Yes, in a way you can see it.



“I will accept whatever happens if he comes here. To see his face is worth everything. I have to see him, “said Okubit Tewerde, looking down at the table.



– I appreciate that the Swedish government takes care of my son as if it were their own child.



Abraham Ukbagabir’s grandfather, mother and brother.  Photo : Martin Schibbye


The Swedish border police has a list of recipient countries that do not receive forced forced labor.



Eritrea is at the top of that list.



The judgment also states that there is currently a barrier to expelling Abraham Ukbagabir to Eritrea, but that he will spend a long time in office and that it may be possible in the future.



“Today it is not possible to wonder what the situation looks like and when his punishment can be timed. Against this background, decisions on expulsion should now be taken, and in the future may be investigated if barriers to enforcing such a decision exist.”



But for the first time there is now a sentenced prisoner who wants to Eritrea!






And according to the border police, it’s just volunteering that would make it possible.



While the European Commission on Human Rights has also pointed out that extradition may in certain cases lead to a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.



If extradition occurs to a country where the expulsion expires, “risks to life and limb or where he risks being subjected to political persecution, the extradition may include such inhuman or degrading treatment prohibited by Article 3 of the Convention.”



This can be said to be what happened when Sweden released two people to Egypt in the early 2000s, despite the assurances that they would not be tortured, were tortured.



Eritrea is at the top of the list of beneficiary countries that do not receive forced forced persons.  Photo : Martin Schibbye.



But neither can the case be comparable, as this time it applies to a person willing to be extradited and who, for every day that goes, also costs money and place at a Swedish high-security institution.



Eritrea’s Minister of Justice believes that an extradition would be possible if an agreement was concluded with Sweden.



“For this to happen we must have an agreement with Sweden and so far we have not. But in the near future there may be such an agreement.



There is also a further dimension.



Relations between Sweden and Eritrea are not the best and to meet and leave the Eritrean embassy Abraham might be a first step that could eventually release the Swedish conscience prison Dawit Isaak?

In recent years, Sweden has sought to open up more contact areas between the two countries.



The goal is to get Eritrea to recognize the human rights challenges while not wanting international criticism to make the country lock and feel there is no way to improve.



A delicate balance.



An extradition of Abraham Ukbagabir had partly given Eritrea a citizen they want to return.



And partly, that Sweden trusts the possibilities of the Eritrean prison and justice system?


The electric cooker’s lamp is lit red. I hold the boiling water over the trumpet inside the visitor’s room, but Abraham shakes his head.



He does not want anything.



Inside the facility in Tidaholm he devotes the most time to waiting and dreaming about Eritrea.



During weekdays, he often cycles on a exercise bike.



“One day when I sweat is a good day. I think it’s good for me to work so I’m sweating a lot. It feels good.



What he remembers from Eritrea in addition to the family is the watermelon. The traditional coffee. Food. It soured the bread.



“We also have creative activities, and we do plastic packaging for sandwiches,” says Abraham.



“I understand that it’s not a good thing, but I want to forget this,” says Abraham Ukbagabir about the murders of Ikea in Västerås.  Photo : Pontus Lundahl / TT



Outside the minimal visitor’s room, it’s a nuisance.



Last year, the staff found a toothbrush, which was designed to be used as a weapon, at the department at Hallfängelset where Ukbagabir was placed. It was suspected that the improvised weapon would be used against Ukbagabir, so he was placed in isolation.



He himself plays down the event.



– It’s good here. I’ve got a bang on a couple of occasions , but then it’s in prison. I was beat up as a soldier in Eritrea as well. So is life in the army, says Abraham, and frenetically spins on a small gray key that he holds hard in one hand.



Outside, the sky is even gray. The wall is so close to the window that you almost have to squeeze your face against the window to see the clouds.



But he does not look there. One foot moves all the time up and down while Abraham tells about life in Eritrea.



The growth of a single mom was difficult, but he did not want to complain.



“Life was tough for everyone in Eritrea in the years following the war against Ethiopia. We were not rich. But we did not swallow either.



The home was near the border with Ethiopia and only a few kilometers from the toughest battles on the cliff Adi Begio. He himself took the 1999 student under the fiery war, and was placed in the Navy after undergraduate education.



The military compensation was barely enough for himself and even less to provide a family.



The idea of ​​flying to Europe started to clutter. The subject was taboo and he dared not talk about his plans even with the closest friends.



At the same time, it became increasingly difficult for the mother to support the five children.



“One day, another soldier tells about Sweden, remembers Abraham and corrects the gray soft suit.



He decides to fly on foot through the country to Sudan. Because they have been soldiers, they are found in the country.



But they leave their weapons and belongings at the lodge.



– I’m not a thief. I did not want to steal anything. I fled to support my family. I think my master would understand.



It took several days before they finally crossed the border. Then they went on for a couple of days before seeing the first settlements in Sudan.



They avoided populated areas and rounded the UN’s major refugee camp.



The goal was not to be a refugee in a camp. The goal was Europe



“The goal was not to be a refugee in a camp. The goal was Europe.



In the days they went. At night they dreamed about how it would be when they arrived.



The sister’s sister had a shop in Sweden and maybe they could work there?



But would she like to hire them both?



It was in any case, if not a plan, so at least a hope. They went to Khartoum.



Abraham understood that there were now two choices. One thing was to somehow arrange an air ticket


– the other way was through the Sahara, Libya and the Mediterranean.



The friend who was more at checkout arranged a visa and left him.



– I hesitated for a long time, I did not want to travel through the desert. I had heard the stories of those who died, telling Abraham.



During the trial, his lawyer meant that he was suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder. A diagnosis as the lawyer was allegedly missed by the legal psychiatric investigation made. “This is not wise what he did. Something he has to suffer. He has talked about peace and peace and to die to get to paradise. You do not have to be an amateur psychologist to find out that it does not sound logical” said the lawyer during the trial.



Abraham Ukbagir is questioned by the police in a hospital after the murders at Ikea in Västerås.  Photo : Police



Both me and Abraham know that the visit time is limited and that I will soon ask questions about things other than the flight. But yet we’re not there.



It could still be another one of tens of thousands of testimonies.



“We were 180 people on the boat across the Mediterranean. But I was not afraid. Libya was more dangerous and when I saw the beach, I felt just focused. I might come to Europe. Maybe I should die. It was in God’s hands, but at least I was on my way. It was important to be in motion, remember Abraham.



But Italy was not the goal of the trip.



“There was so much rumor, I was told Italy was not good, that I would go on.



Before the Italian police release him, he is allowed to give his fingerprints.



A hill on the streets of Eritrea’s capital Asmara.



He does not think so much about it then, but the data contained in the Italian database will characterize his life for the next ten years.




The flight goes on through Europe and finally to a distant relative in England. Initially everything goes well. He gets a job.



– Black of course, but I bet and could start sending money to Mom.



The first payment he makes, he still remembers. The feeling that the mother of Eritrea was able to get money. Repair the house. Buy food for sister’s wedding.



“But I did not send 100 percent of the money, I do not know why, but I kept some,” says Abraham.



The first time he gets caught, he realizes that the fingerprints give rise to the police’s databases. The deportion from England to Italy is a fact. The second time happens the same, even if he has become more cautious, he gets stuck again. The controls have become more.



The third time he returns to England, he tries to burn his fingertips with a lighter.



But the pain becomes unbearable and he pushes back his fingers. Nor with a knife he is able to cut pieces of his own fingers.



– I just did not get it.



Abraham flies to Norway and is sent back to Italy. He flies to Denmark and is sent back to Italy. Deportations continue.



Each time he curses his hands. The years have gone fast and it’s all the more rare he can send home money.



Photo : Martin Schibbye



The thought of giving up starts to clutter. To return to Eritrea.



“I thought that if I apologize, they might take me. The leadership of the country knows how hard life can be and I was responsible for my family. They should understand.



Abraham also believes that the fact that he did not stole his weapon or other equipment from the army would be proof that he left for economic reasons. He also stayed loyally in the army until the emergency warfare was over.



“I was not politically active, I have never said anything bad about the country. I’m sure they would accept me if I apologized in writing.



But when he tells the family in Eritrea about his plans to give up the dream of Europe, it is not estimated.



– No, do not come back. Fight! You have to fight, they told me. But I really wanted to go home to Eritrea. I regretted that I was moving, it was a mistake, it was too tough in Europe. Too hard.


I regretted that I was moving, it was a mistake, it was too tough in Europe  


The coffee cup in front of him is still untouched. Out in the corridor is the step. In his department there are eight others. Everyone is sentenced to some of the law’s most severe punishment. 
Abraham stretches out his arms on the couch.



His friends in Germany and Holland, as he learned during the flight, had stayed in their respective countries. They had reunited with their families. The children were put in new schools. They got a job.



He himself had been in flight for almost ten and stood and stamped. The money was over. The debts grew. After ten years in Europe, he had not met many of his goals when he decides to try a country to: Sweden.


“I was the oldest children and I had to take my responsibility.



In 2013, he applies for asylum at the Swedish Migration Board in Norrköping. In the beginning he is hopeful. The interviews go well.


He will not be deported directly but placed on a refugee residence.



– I started learning the language, took courses. Some small jobs. Waited.



Around him he saw how other Eritreans immediately received asylum. Sweden considered that Eritrea was such a repressive country that it was rarely required an individual threat image.


 I knew if I could keep myself hidden for some time, I could search again



– When the first rejection came, I went underground. I knew if I could keep myself hidden for some time, I could search again.


Meanwhile, hidden as a matter of urgency, to get a new refusal to rub him. 
The morning of August 10 he is called the Migration Board’s office in Västerås.



“I did not feel well that morning,” he recalls.



He felt he would not be able to cope with a rejection, not accept it. Until today, he had been denied asylum seven times in three countries.



Maybe if he had had some money left. Then he could try Malta.



“A new reputation was that you could get a job there. But it’s an island in the Mediterranean and I could not afford to get there.



It was now or never.



“At the meeting I learned that I have to leave Sweden and travel to Italy.



In Italy he had a temporary residence permit because it was the first country he came to after his flight from Eritrea.



What then happens at the department store, he can not explain.



– It was a serious economic problem, a lack of money …



But what you did that day why did you do that?



– I do not know, a lack of resources.



Abraham Ukbagabir among the knives at the Ikeavaru House in Västerås on August 10, 2015 before killing a woman and her son.  Photo : Police



But you killed two completely innocent people – what do you think about it today?



– Shit happens! I understand that it’s not a good thing. But I want to forget this.



But for relatives and others it’s hard to forget, many wonder why?



– What can I say to them or do now? It is done. You can not do anything wrong. But that’s history.



Some would say you did it because you wanted to stay in Sweden and now you get it. Stuck in a prison? What do you say to them?



– It is not like that. It was not good. It’s a misunderstanding and I did not see the consequences. Today I had not done it. It is now something I live with. It just is. What happened.



I recognize the somewhat incoherent responses from the reporting of the trial. He then acknowledged everything without interruption but was confused and spoke incoherently.



On the question why he attacked two innocents, he responded, “The thought was that they would come to paradise and meet God.”



The police patrolled outside Ikea after the murders in Västerås.  Photo : Meli Petersson Ellafi



This meant that the district court decided to undergo a legal psychiatric investigation.



According to that, Abraham Ukbagabir suffered no serious mental disorder. Which means that he could be sentenced to imprisonment.



During the trial he said, “I felt that when everyone else can stay in the country, but not me, I considered it to be a crime against me. To show that I was treated unfairly and for peace, I went to attack . “



Both the court of justice and the court of justice sentenced him to the imprisonment of life and expulsion for double murder.



“The acts have also been preceded by planning and must have resulted in severe death siege for the victims,” ​​the court wrote in the judgment.




Outside, the snow has begun to fall and the time of the visit begins to end. I tell you that in a report by the UN Human Rights Committee, the situation in the Eritrean prisons is described as the closest to the lawyer.



Witnesses talk about lack of food, medical care and long periods of isolation. Other UN reports describe how detainees are kept detained in containers exposed to the sun.



But Abraham shakes off those tasks.



“I’m not afraid of being detained in Eritrea. I know my country. Whatever happens there I accept it. God may decide.



I’m not afraid to be detained in Eritrea  



His application for relocation to earn the remainder of his sentence in his country of residence Eritrea has been handled by the Justice Department for Criminal Matters and International Judicial Cooperation (BIRS), which in turn has contacted the Eritrean authorities, as both Sweden and Eritrea must approve a transfer.



“I know my country. Whatever happens, I accept that,” says Abraham Ukbagabir of Eritrea.  Photo : Martin Schibbye



But Sweden has halted so far. Abraham can understand it but urges them to reconsider.



– It is easy. I only need a provisional passport. The ticket can I buy myself. The practical is no problem. I have to go home! Whatever happens to me in Eritrea, I accept it to 100 percent. Tell your government.



In the corridor you hear the steps.



– My life’s biggest mistake was to leave Eritrea. This country is not for me. I have tried everything to stay here, but now I realize I do not belong here. My place on earth is Eritrea, he says, looking for the first time through the window.