Negotiations to Free Jailed Journalists in Ethiopia Near End (VOA)

March 1st, 2012 Print Print Email Email

A senior European diplomat said Wednesday that negotiations for the release of two Swedish journalists imprisoned in Ethiopia are in the final stage.

European member of parliament and former Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel expressed optimism that Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson could be released within days.

“I expect the solution will be found rather quickly, and I am rather optimistic about this issue,” Persson said.

An Ethiopian court last December convicted the two men of entering the country illegally and supporting a rebel group the government has classified as a terrorist organization.

Michel said he was in productive discussions about the pair’s release with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. The veteran diplomat said he was encouraged by a meeting Mr. Meles had with Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in London last week on the sidelines of an international conference on Somalia.

“Sincerely I have felt that Prime Minister Meles is conscious that it is embarrassing,” Michel said. “And I believe he wants to have a solution, which, of course, is on line with the rule of law. And he’s rather creative to find this if goodwill is coming from these prisoners, also with an understanding position from the Government of Sweden.”

Michel said he was allowed a private visit on Wednesday with the two journalists at the Addis Ababa prison where they are serving their sentences. He said he was impressed by the prisoners’ condition and with their remorse.

“Those two journalists first of all said to me that they made a very big mistake and were regretting to have done so, that they were ready to apologize and to promise not to repeat this mistake and learning lessons from this bad experience,” said Michel.

After their conviction and sentencing, Schibbye and Persson declined to file an appeal, saying they would ask for clemency. The pair were arrested last June in Ethiopia’s Somali region, while traveling with rebels of the outlawed Ogaden National Liberation Front.

During the trial, the pair admitted entering Ethiopia illegally from Somalia, but denied supporting the rebels. They told the court they were investigating a Swedish oil firm with ties to the country’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. The company was alleged to have hired as guards former Ethiopian soldiers who are accused of human rights violations in the Ogaden.

  1. MA
    | #1

    I initially thought the title read :

    “Negotiations to Free Jailed Ethiopian Journalist near End”

    Who said “Charity begins at home”?

  2. Zerai
    | #2

    In Meles’s Ethiopia everything has been put on the Sale. As long as it brings money to this tribal regime nothing has been spared, even our sisters’ pride and dignity, from the market.
    How much would Meles get in return? That is what they are negotiating about.
    I hope the Swedes will be set free. And more importantly, my hope is that the Swedish government will pay enough to help get people like Andualem Reayot and Eskandar out of the Qaliti and Maekelawi torture chambers.

  3. ananymous
    | #3

    The little horse of the white people in the horn of Africa must obey what its keepers tell it to do; and another opportunity for the little horse to wiggle its tale and kill Ethiopian citizens.

  4. Sam
    | #4

    All along I know the Meles government is going to release the two journalists after a political victory. It was a matter of time. The two journalists were accused among other things of entering Ethiopia through Somalia. They might have chosen to enter that way because the Ethiopian government was unwilling to let them go through Ethiopia. But the EPDRF should be the last government on earth to not understand the journalists intent. During its struggle to unseat the Derg the TPLF– mind you not EPDRF– politicos used Sudan as entry point to entice journalists to see what was going on the battle field. Now, the same politicians threw to prison the two journalists for needing to know what was going on in Ogaden. Speak of hypocracy in its utmost. What is laughable the most is the accusation that the journalists were supporting the rebels. Journalists by profession are seeking to unravel the truth. The EPDRF politicos should know this fact because they used journalists twenty plus years ago knowing the journalists tell the truth to the world. How then journalists turned out to be instrument of the rebels rather than agents of truth seekers? It is not that the EPDRF politicos suspect the journalists being used by the rebels. No, the politicos want to score a point here. They arrestd the journalists fully aware they would pardon them in no time. What is the benefit of doing that? Well, Meles seems a reasonable statesman. Moreover, warn other journalists not to “interfere” in Ethiopia’s internal politics. While I write this I fully aware the Ogaden movement is a narrow-minded separitist movement. I honestly want the movement to be buried. I have no stomach to accept any movement that speaks for a portion of Ethiopians anymore. But to use the journalists to discredit the movement is the Machevalian way of conducting poitical business. It should be condemned.

  5. Anonymous
    | #5

    what about local jornalists in jail?

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