”Terrorism crimes can give you life imprisonment in Ethiopia and sometimes even a death sentence is issued but is very rarely carried out,” said Kjetil Tronvoll, professor at the International Law and Policy Institute in Oslo and expert on Ethiopian legislation.
Photographer Johan Persson and reporter Martin Schibbye, both freelancers, have been held in jail since they were arrested with Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels, who are opposed to the Ethiopian government.
Fighting broke out between the rebels and Ethiopian troops, killing 15 and injuring six, including the journalists, who suffered gunshot wounds.
The two Swedes have been held since their arrest in the beginning of July. According to Tronvoll the situation isn’t looking great for them.
That they entered the country illegally and ventured into Ogaden which is off limits was bad enough, but what is the most serious, according to Tronvoll, is that they were following the ONLF guerilla..
There is also an image of Johan Persson holding an automatic weapon.
”With the information that we have received everything points to a conviction,” said Tronvoll.
Another circumstance that makes it harder for the Swedes is that they are being charged together with two members of the guerilla, arrested at the same time.
”This ties them closer to ONLF and their activities,” Tronvoll said.
But Tronvoll thinks it is still possible that the two Swedes could be pardoned by the government.
”What usually happens is that you serve some time in prison, perhaps two years, before being pardoned by the president,” Tronvoll said.
According to Tronvoll there are some in the Etiopan regime who definitely didn’t wish for this case to be brought forward.
At the same time the Ethiopian authorities have long had problems with press trying to enter Ogaden and there are therefore some who want to make an example of this case and show that ”enough is enough”.
According to Kjell Persson, the jailed Johan Persson’s father, the two reporters are upset with the footage that is being used as evidence against them.
”It is manipulated,” Persson said to TT.
Persson also said that the two reporter are adamant that the footage was not shot in Ogaden but in Somalia.
”And it is not ONLF that is featured but their own security guards,” Persson claimed.
The two reporters are eager to fight for their rights and for press freedom, according to Kjell Persson, who says the two are still in good spirits.
Persson also said he had been informed that the two would be moved on Thursday from the detention centre in Addis Ababa to Kality prison on the outskirts of the capital.