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Sat May 23 18:27:29 SAST 2015

Ikea admits political prisoners made its furniture, apologises

Sapa-dpa | 16 November, 2012 16:29
Former East German prisoners attend a news conference where Swedish furniture maker IKEA presents a study investigating the possible use of political prisoners in the production of furniture at a news conference at the Stasi documentation centre in Berlin November 16, 2012.
Image by: THOMAS PETER / REUTERS

Ikea admitted Friday that political prisoners in communist East Germany were forced to make some of the Swedish home-furnishings giant's products in the 1980s and apologised.

It released in Berlin a report by independent auditors Ernst and Young into allegations by the former prisoners that they had to make furniture and accessories in prison workshops. They were threatened with solitary confinement and other punishment if they refused.

Some Ikea executives were aware at the time, 25 to 30 years ago, that East German suppliers were using jailed dissidents as labour along with regular criminals.

"We very much apologize that this could have happened," said Jeanette Skjelmose, a spokeswoman for Ikea which runs self-service megastores round the globe selling stylish but cheap furniture of its own design.

Ikea ordered the study after ex-prisoners aired the allegations last year on German television. The repressive East German communist government collapsed at the end of 1989 and within weeks, the political prisoners were freed.

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