Ethiopians deny charges against jailed Swedes

The information that an Ethiopian foreign ministry official had confirmed that the two Swedish reporters held in custody after being arrested in the Ogaden province will be charged with terrorism crimes, has been repudiated but the authority.

“I was misquoted by the AFP reporter. I haven’t said that they stand accused of anything. We are investigating why they were in the area.They were arrested in the wrong place with the wrong people, but we don’t know why,” Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesperson Dina Mufti told news agency TT.

He couldn’t answer what the two Swedes stand accused of or when their case may go to trial.

“As they haven’t been charged with anything and no interrogations have been held they have yet to receive legal representation,” Mufti told TT.

The two Swedish reporters, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, were in a conflicted Ogaden region by the Somali border, when they were arrested on July 1st.

Ogaden is off-limits to journalists, and there is an armed conflict going on between the government army and the guerrilla movement Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

The region is populated by ethnic Somalis, and the Swedes entered the area together with rebels from Somali breakaway republic Puntland, in order to report on the situation.

Despite the earlier information given by Ethiopian authorities that the two Swedish reporters had been moved to the capital city Addis Ababa, the Foreign Ministry were told on Wednesday afternoon that they are still held in the Jijiga area.

“We have had it confirmed to us that they are still in Jijiga. We don’t know the reason behind it or if they still will be transferred to Addis Ababa,” said Cecilia Juhlin of the Foreign Ministry to news agency TT.

The Swedish ambassador to Ethiopia, Jens Odlander, was not allowed to see the Swedes on Tuesday but is expected to visit the two reporters again as soon as he receives the green light from authorities.

“We are counting on visiting them again then. We have received positive information indicating that this request will be granted,” Juhlin told DN.

But later on Wednesday they received the information that the men were still in Jijiga. Jens Odlander, who had returned to Addis Ababa following the news that the men were being taken there, does not want to speculate into what it means.

“Of course we are a little worried of the contradictory information. We haven’t received any explanation,” he told TT.

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Fashion retailer H&M plans Ethiopia expansion

Swedish fashion retailer Hennes and Mauritz (H&M) said Friday it would expand its network of suppliers to Ethiopia, after concentrating 80 percent of its production in Asian countries.

Fashion retailer H&M plans Ethiopia expansion

“We are an expansive company and are constantly looking at new potential purchasing markets to guarantee that we have capacity to deliver products to all stores in our expansive markets,” H&M spokeswoman Camilla Emilsson-Falk told AFP.

“We do that by increasing the productivity on the existing production markets as well as looking at new markets,” she added.

Test orders have been placed with Ethiopian suppliers and new factories will be built this autumn, but it is too early to say how many suppliers will be used and when the factories will be ready for production, according to Emilsson-Falk.

The East African country has had a long history in textile, leather and shoe production since its Italian occupation in 1939. Other apparel retailers have already begun sourcing products in the country, including Tesco and Chinese shoe-manufacturer Huajian, providing footwear to Guess and Tommy Hilfiger.

“Ethiopia is a country with strong development and we trust that we can sustain economic growth and job opportunities there,” said Emilsson-Falk.

Despite strong economic growth, 9.9 percent on yearly average since 2004 according to the World Bank, the sub-Saharan nation remains one of the world’s

poorest. And one year after the death of prime minister Meles Zenawi, the country is still criticised for its lack of human rights by watchdog organisations.

“We did an extensive risk analysis for Ethiopia, looking at human rights and environmental issues in the country,” said Emilsson-Falk.

“We have worked with improvement of working conditions in our production countries for many years and will apply our experience when establishing relationships with the Ethiopian suppliers.”

H&M, which has stores in Egypt and Morocco, has no concrete plans for further expansion in Africa.

Two Swedish journalists who were kept in jail for 14 months in the country were released in September 2012.

TT/AFP/The Local/pvs

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