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Rights groups criticize upcoming Ethiopia trial

AFP/The Local · 16 Oct 2011, 12:15

Published: 16 Oct 2011 12:15 GMT+02:00

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The two reporters have been held in jail since they were arrested on July 1 with Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels after a battle with government troops.

The Swedes were wounded during the gunfight, in which 15 rebels were reportedly killed.

On September 7, they were charged with being engaged in terrorist activities, aiding and abetting a terrorist group, and entering the country illegally without permission, from neighbouring Somalia.

Sweden's foreign ministry said that they had not expected the charges of terrorism, but anticipate they will be dropped.

"We were surprised and disappointed by this, because we believe in their claims to be journalists, I can't see any reason why these charges will not be dropped," Anders Jörle of the ministry's information department told AFP.

The process has already caused controversy.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told Norway's Aftenposten newspaper last week that they are "at the very least messenger boys of a terrorist organization, they are not journalists."

The comments sparked an angry condemnation from the New York-based media rights watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

"The Ethiopian government has compromised their fundamental rights of defence, chiefly, the presumption of innocence, by portraying them in the media as accomplices to terrorists," the CPJ said in a statement.

The trial also casts rare light on Ethiopia's south-eastern impoverished Ogaden region, home to ethnic Somalis and the ONLF rebels, who have been fighting for independence from the central government since 1984.

The recent discovery of oil and gas in Ogaden has brought hopes of wealth, but also new sources of conflict, with the ONLF threatening foreign workers and the government cracking down on opposition it says are rebels.

"The Ogaden has become strategically quite important because these resources need to be exploited," said David Anderson, professor of African politics at Oxford University, adding that the region has become an "embarrassment" for the regime in Addis Ababa.

International rights groups say the Ethiopian government has already made widespread use of anti-terror legislation to crack down on suspected opponents.

The law is a "smokescreen for imposing a set of promulgations that allow the government to deal with its opponents," Anderson said, adding that it allows "an unscrupulous government to behave unscrupulously."

Story continues below…

At least 157 people, mainly journalists and opposition members, have been arrested since May on suspicion of being connected with various outlawed groups, detentions heavily criticised by Amnesty International.

"All these arrests are just abusing the anti-terror legislation, or misusing it, to stifle freedom of expression," said Amnesty's Ethiopia researcher Claire Beston.

The Ethiopian authorities have rejected the accusations, saying the arrests are a legitimate response to a network of rebels it claims are backed by long-term foe and neighbour, Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki.

"There is a conspiracy under way that tried to animate a series of terrorist attacks all over the country," government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:48 October 16, 2011 by BBKING
Oh Swedes the perfect people. Do they even commit crimes?
14:35 October 16, 2011 by tedd09y
They r not totally innocent,they should not enter in to a sovereign country without a visa ,who do they think they r....in the other way we all know that the government of Ethiopia is also a total dictator regime...I don't think they r terrorists that s too much acquisitions to make they r just stupid journalists who enter in to the country illegally !
18:40 October 16, 2011 by Asefe
Ethiopia gives no visa to any journalists, that is why these brave guys tried to get in Ethiopia. The world need such a courage journalists to uncover what Ethiopia is hiding in Ogaden. As former victim of Ethiopian brutality, I share the pain with these two journalist and their families, but shame on Swedish government who watch our citizens humiliated by a dictator fed with our taxes.
19:20 October 16, 2011 by kynan
its Ethiopian rulers who terrorize, torture, kill, rape, burn and imprison innocent civilians in Ethiopia and in Ogaden, but unfortunately western nations and their allies continue to support this regime as they supported Mubarak and Bin-Ali of Tunisia. they whole region of Ogaden is under blockage since 2006, without no Journalists and independent organisations.
21:38 October 16, 2011 by prince T
Sweden also supported mubrak tunisia until the arab uprsing. Usa, uk supported too.
23:44 October 16, 2011 by kenfe
Melse himself knows in his heart these poor dedicated Journalists are not terrorist.some times Journalists must take risks being on the wrong side of the law to get their job done. This case depicts what a crazy conceited dictator Melse has become. It serves as wake up call for Swedish Authorities,especialy MIgration Board,that grossly rejects deserving Ethiopan asylum seekers saying Ethiopia enjoys reasonable governance appreciating human and civil rights.I hope now they will see the true color of The Addis Ababa regime when their own citizens are paraded on TPLF Kangaroo court and stand such a ridiculous show trial,just aimed at feeding Melse´s ego& subdue his people..

Melse may also dare to use these Swedes as a bargaining chip to negotiate a sensitive deal with the Europeans.His contempt is not restricted to his people.It does extend to the Europeans and the Americans too.I guess He thinks he is smarter than Obama himself.I believe this little man is a big menace to every body that should certainly be thrown in to a trash can in a way Gadaffi done.
23:44 October 16, 2011 by Uncle
I have got a solution that will solve the problems according to princes and kynans over here. Let's cut relationships with any non-democracy in existence!

Let's trade only with democracies (since a mere trade seems to be "support")

Let's STARVE populations of the third world just enough for them to revolt.

It will work like magic! Look at the populations of North Korea and Burma that are blockaded by the west! How they enjoy a full democracy thanks to the lack of any relationships with the evil swedes who would not support them.

For real. Out of 195 countries, there are about 80 democracies, of which about 50 are quasi-democracies. So it leaves the monstrous swedes to trade with 29 other countries. If we count Russia with it's resources inside these 30, as well as Mexico and Brazil with their cheap labor. we got the experiment all ready to go!

Of course, 4 billion of earth population in world dictatorships would start dying and all that stuff, but at least the west would have a clean conscious!

Some posts are simply unbelievable!
06:52 October 17, 2011 by Migga
Sweden don`t support dictators, we support the suffering people in those countries until they themselves can rise up.
08:04 October 17, 2011 by Kevin Harris
The trial will open.

The judge will read out the guilty verdict already written by the government.

The trial will close.
11:51 October 17, 2011 by TEDLA
Dictatorship is State Terrorism

Zenawi's "anti-terrorism" diktat is intended to muzzle journalists from criticizing, youths from peaceably demonstrating, opposition parties from political organizing, ordinary citizens from speaking, civic leaders from mobilizing, teachers from imparting knowledge, lawyers from advocating scholars from analyzing and the entire nation from questioning his dictatorial rule. It is a "law" singularly intended to criminalize speech, police thought, outlaw critical publications, intimidate hearts, crush spirits, terrorize minds and shred constitutional and internationally-guaranteed human rights. When the State uses the "law" to silence and violently stamp out dissent, jail and keep in solitary confinement dissenters, opposition leaders and members, suppress the press and arbitrarily arrest journalists, trash human rights with impunity, trample upon the rule of law and scoff at constitutional accountability, does it not become a terrorist state? WHO IS TERRORIST MELES ZENAWI OR .FREELANCE REPORTER MARTIN SCHIBBYE AND PHOTOGRAPHER JOHAN .PERSSON?
10:29 October 18, 2011 by Munir Ahmed
Ogaden (ONLF) Islamic terrorist cold-blooded massacre record, ignored by $$$ hungry Swedish reporters, and $$$ hungry "rights groups"...Racist double standard.




20:01 October 18, 2011 by BBKING
"Rights Groups criticize.."

Oh yeah that is their only job. To criticize. They got no other jobs to do. They do things except help millions of Africans who are starving to death everyday. We are well aware of the characters of groups such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch who are keen on reporting constant fabrications of hearsay just to get their voices heard.

Are they saying Europeans are no capable of promoting terrorism without considering the evidences or waiting for the court verdicts? This is an insult to Ethiopians.

Does being an adventurous journalist qualifies you for acquittal even if you have committed any kind of crime?
15:31 October 21, 2011 by kuzzza
Ethiopian Prime Minister comments on this issue: http://www.ethiotube.net/video/16099/PM-Meles-Zenawi-speaking-about-the-arrested-Swedish-Journalists--October-20-2011
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