Court amends charges against jailed Swedes

The charges against the two jailed Swedish journalists in Ethiopia will be changed from participating in terrorism to just supporting terrorism, the Ethiopian court announced on Thursday.

Court amends charges against jailed Swedes

Freelance reporters Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye will answer to charges of supporting a terrorist group, carrying a sentence of up to 15 years in jail, as well as entering the country illegally.

“Charge three, participating in a terrorist organization, has been

dropped,” Judge Shemsu Sirgaga told the courtroom through an interpreter.

“They have to defend themselves against two charges: supporting a terrorist group and entering the country illegally,” he added.

Persson and Schibbye were arrested on July 1 in Ethiopia near the Somali border, and are accused of entering the country with members of the outlawed rebel group Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

Last month, they pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism but admitted entering the country illegally.

This week, the prosecution opened its case against the Swedes, presenting witness testimony and video evidence of them travelling in the region.

The judge ruled Thursday the evidence was sufficient to allow the charges to be sustained.

“The public prosecution has established they were caught marching into

Ethiopia,” he said, adding the Swedes had tried to meet ONLF leaders and tried “to promote the terrorists.”

On Wednesday, the prosecution presented two-hours of raw video footage of the pair travelling in the region, with about 20 minutes of edited footage produced for Somali television.

In the raw footage, with no audio, the Swedes are seen holding machine guns. In the edited version, a gunshot can be heard as Persson holds up the gun.

The trial will resume on December 6th when defence lawyers are to start

presenting their case.

Two Ethiopians of Somali origin accused of terrorism alongside the Swedish journalists are expected to receive a verdict Friday, having told the court they had no defence to present against charges of belonging to the ONLF.

The ONLF, formed in 1984, has been fighting for the independence of the remote southeastern Ogaden region, populated mainly by ethnic Somalis, which the rebels say has been marginalised by Addis Ababa.

Oil was recently discovered in the area, bringing new promises of wealth as well as a greater threat of conflict.

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Bildt lays out four steps to Gaza peace

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt stated that there are four steps to achieving peace in Gaza, and that it begins with removing the blockade - which has "played into Hamas' hands".

Bildt lays out four steps to Gaza peace
Photos: TT

Bildt wrote in a debate article in Dagens Nyheter on Thursday that there are four steps necessary in order to achieve enduring peace in Gaza.

"With these four principles as a base, an agreement about Gaza could lead to an immediate stop for missiles, bombs, tunnels and killing, and also act as a bridge to a more thorough agreement about the two-state solution for which we have worked so long." 

First, the blockade must go.

"One of the blockade's most substantial effects has been to destroy Gaza's economy," Bildt asserted. 

He wrote that Gaza's exports are only 2 percent of what they were before the blockade, and that it has made the city dependent on an economy of smuggling – largely controlled by Hamas.

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Second, Israel's legitimate security concerns must be addressed. "No nation would tolerate being subjected to indiscriminate missile attacks," Bildt said. 

Bildt's third principle for a solution in Gaza was that the city must "clearly become a part of the Palestinian administration". The minister said that this was also a prerequisite for international aid and rebuilding efforts once the crisis is resolved.

In addition, demilitarization of Gaza must be demlitarized and Israel must hold free democratic elections for the Palestinian administration within the next year.

Finally, a long-term solution must include Gaza's right to become "the future State of Palestine's window to the Mediterranean and in major regards its doorway to the world".

Bildt added that connections with the West Bank must be opened and developed in such a way that does not threaten Israeli security. 

"Much of the debate right now focuses on how much of the blame one side or the other should take," Bildt remarked.

"But I believe we can only go forward if we realize that both sides also are right in important regards. And focus our efforts on building a more long-term agreement based on the four principles I have laid out here."

"Then this unnecessary war can lead to necessary peace."