Ethiopian court finds 2 Swedish journalists guilty of supporting terrorism – By Associated Press

December 21st, 2011 Print Print Email Email

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — A court in Ethiopia convicted two Swedish journalists Wednesday of supporting terrorism after the pair illegally entered the country with an ethnic Somali rebel group. (more…)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — A court in Ethiopia convicted two Swedish journalists Wednesday of supporting terrorism after the pair illegally entered the country with an ethnic Somali rebel group.

The pair, who now face up to 15 years in prison at their sentencing next week, have said they were gathering news at the time of their arrest.

However, Judge Shemsu Sirgaga said that was “very unlikely,” accusing the Ogaden National Liberation Front of organizing the Swedes’ journey starting in London via Kenya and Somalia into Ethiopia. Outlawed groups in many countries frequently facilitate the travels of reporters in order to have their version of events told.

Ethiopian troops captured Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye six months ago during a clash with rebels in Ethiopia’s restive Somali region in the country’s east, a no-go area for reporters. Ethiopia considers the rebel group a terrorist organization, and it is very difficult for journalists to gain access to the region. Rights groups say that is so abuses there are not exposed.

The chairman of the Swedish Union of Journalists, Jonas Nordling, deplored the conviction, saying it is clearly aimed at deterring reporters from investigating alleged human rights abuses in the Ogaden region.

“This is a political verdict,” Nordling said. “There is no evidence to support that this is a terror crime.”

“They are two established reporters who have used accepted journalistic methods to enter the area,” he said, adding Ethiopian officials “absolutely do not want to see an open examination of what happens in the Ogaden area.”

Persson and Schibbye are both freelance contributors to the Sweden-based photojournalism agency Kontinent. Schibbye is also a writer. The two regularly had their work published in national newspapers in Sweden and Norway.

The pair said they had been gathering news about a Swedish oil company that is exploring Ethiopia’s Somali region for oil. Sweden’s foreign minister, Carl Bildt, was a member of the board of the company — Lundin Petroleum — between 2000 and 2006. He left the board when he was appointed foreign minister.

Bildt said on Twitter that Sweden expresses “grave concern” over Wednesday’s verdict. “We will continue to work to set them free,” he said.

The Ethiopian judge said that “journalism demands impartiality and balance but doesn’t require violating the laws of a sovereign country.”

“The court finds the defendants guilty as charged in a unanimous vote,” he said.

The Swedes’ lawyers, their family and the Swedish ambassador to Ethiopia left the court without making any comments.

In Sweden, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said the Swedish government will immediately contact high-level officials in the Ethiopian government.

“Our starting point is and remains that they have been in the country on a journalistic mission. They should be freed as soon as possible to be able to reunite with their families in Sweden,” Reinfeldt said.

Persson and Schibbye have acknowledged that they entered Ethiopia illegally.

“Your honor, I am a journalist and my job is to gather news. I am guilty of entering Ethiopia illegally, but I am not guilty of the other activities I am charged of,” Schibbye said during the case’s preliminary hearing in October.

“I entered the country illegally and nothing else,” Persson added.

The international community has closely followed the terror trial against the Swedes. Rights groups and diplomats say Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism proclamation restricts freedom of expression and is used as a tool to crack down on dissent.

The rights group Amnesty International said after the verdict that there was no evidence to suggest that the two Swedes were doing anything but carrying out work as reporters.

“We believe that these men are prisoners of conscience, prosecuted because of their legitimate work,” said Claire Beston, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher. “The overly broad provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation allow the authorities to criminalize the exercise of freedom of expression.”

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Associated Press writer Malin Rising in Stockholm contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  1. Gigi
    | #1

    This is injustices against this two Swedish people. This is a government who doesn’t allow non other than his
    Journalists who lies for him to report on or go to rebel and famine zones.

    This is asking for war with the Swedish country. It is beyond outrageous!

  2. Anonymous
    | #2

    With out a shadow of a doubt, I strongly believe the two Swedish journalist are independent reporters and not at all terrorists. They were trying to find out the whole truth about the self appointed so called leader that is responsible for the deaths of countless number of innocent Ethiopians, the loss of billions of Ethiopian money and natural resources. It seems to me that, Meles and his mafia group must be making tons of money every time they accuse someone of terrorism. I wonder what the government of Sweden going to do about this. I hope, the Swedish Army go ahead and take care of Meles, as US did to Binladen and take their Swedish citizens out of the Hell Hole of Woyanes.

  3. Babu
    | #3

    Hypocrasy at its peak. When TPLF etc were organising and bringing in foreign journalists to witness the excesses of Derg, it was Ok then, Now when ONLF might have done similar action, it is terror and punish the poor swedes. Please(TPLF/EHADEG) join the civilised world and let the people be free in their own lands. We can all be free and happy….only when we let go our controlling actions and inclinations.

  4. Birtu/can
    | #4

    Here is what’s going to happen.Woyane will put in a proposal to the Swedish government in return for their release–sort of a blackmail. As simple as that!!

  5. babb
    | #5

    How things change, in the days when the woyane gujile were in their hide outs Dedebitt, they were transporting BBC journalists non stop.

  6. Oda Tulu
    | #6

    The evil TPLF boss Zenawi made his Anti-Terrorism Law to deter independent journalists to be embeded with armed oppositions like ONLF.His experience in Dedebit hide out was put to use at this time.

  7. Mengistu Teshale
    | #7

    I bet the deal to release these guys is already concluded with Sweden pledging to support the dictator in securing Aid money in the name of Ethiopians for his Tigray and personal wealth. The rest is pointless drama for face-saving operation to save him from embarrassment. This might won him over the Sewdeish government help to secure money, but rest assured that he has also made these young journalists and their colleagues his permanent enemy.

  8. selam
    | #8

    ያው እንደተለመደው ይቅርታ መጠየቅ ክብር የሚመስላቸውን አቶ መለስን ይቅርታ ጠይቀው ይወጣሉ!!!

  9. Abebe Tessema
    | #9

    There is a well-known formula in the dictators MZ’s textbook that has been followed so far. So the convectied person, which this time are the journalists, will send a written clemency to the MZ which BTW is written by the PM himself, handed to the journalists by a Shemagele, this time may be a ferenje, then the PM will mumble something to the rotten parliament and he will send them home may be for X-mas. We will then very shortly know how much a ransom Sewden paid for their release in the from AID.

  10. Tehsome New
    | #10

    I bet the deal to release these guys is already concluded with Sweden pledging to support the dictator in securing Aid money in the name of Ethiopians for his Tigray and personal wealth. The rest is pointless drama for face-saving operation to shield the PM from embarrassment. This might won him over the Swedish government help to secure money, but rest assured he has made a lot of young journalist in the world angry. And their vendetta will haunt him to the grave.

  11. Anonymous
    | #11

    The world known heartless, bloody-hand, TPLF dictator will let the freelance journalist go home after he receives the ransom from the Swedish government.

  12. Ferenj Lebaw
    | #12

    It looks like some of you know what the future looks like for these Swedes. They will be released. Period. But somebody from Sweden or some where in the West has told their Gerdame (Meles) to jail and scare these journalists who are probably doing the right work so they never go to that part of the region to cover the true story of what is going on. Who in their right mind believe these two swedes are terrorists? They are probably good journalists that want to print what is true and the Swedish Government and the Western countries do not want them there covering the truth. That is why their Gerdame charged them with terrorism and the West is laughing at this matter?

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