Swedes to remain in Ethiopian custody

An Ethiopian court ruled on Wednesday to keep the two jailed Swedes in custody, according to information from the foreign ministry.

Swedes to remain in Ethiopian custody

“They were remanded back into custody,” said Anders Jörle, head of the ministry’s information department to news agency TT.

The Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were arrested and injured in the closed border area Ogaden, on July 1st, when caught in a battle between Ethiopian government forces and the ONLF guerilla.

The journalists entered Ethiopia illegally together with the rebels, who are classed as terrorists by the regime.

Following their arrest, the pair was taken to a detention centre in the city Jijiga, where they were permitted to meet briefly with Swedish ambassador Jens Odlander.

After many conflicting reports as to where they were being held, the pair was subsequently moved to Addis Ababa.

Last week the Swedish foreign ministry officials found out that a preliminary remand hearing had been conducted as early as July 6th in Jijiga, prior to the move of the two Swedish reporters to Addis Ababa.

However, a new hearing, where the two Swedes would have legal counsel present was scheduled for this week and took place on Wednesday morning.

According to Jörle no charges have been filed against the two reporters but the preliminary investigation is still ongoing. The two Swedes, under suspicion for terrorism crimes, have denied all allegations.

“They maintain that they were there as reporters to carry out journalistic work,” Jörle said.

Despite their ordeal the two journalists are not feeling too bad and are not being ill-treated.

“But of course it isn’t much fun to be stuck there,” Jörle said to TT.

Both the Swedish Union of Journalists (Journalistförbundet) and Reporters Without Borders have criticized the fact that Schibbye and Persson will be expected to pay for their own legal fees, according to daily Svenska Dagbladet.

“That they are held because they were carrying out journalistic work is absurd in itself, but that they will be forced to pay their own legal representation is really unacceptable,” said Jonas Nordling, chairman of the union to SvD.

Swedish Reporters Without Borders have started a collection to contribute to the cost.

So far they have managed to collect 30,000 kronor ($4,745) but chairman Jesper Bengtsson thinks that at least the double will be needed.

And at the Journalists’ union it is felt that more must be done by the foreign ministry to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to release the two Swedes.

“Anything less than an immediate release is unacceptable. I am expecting the Swedish government to take a clear stance on this,” said Nordling in a statement on Wednesday.

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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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