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Jailed Swedes 'innocent': Ethiopian rebels

AFP/The Local · 23 Dec 2011, 07:04

Published: 23 Dec 2011 07:04 GMT+01:00

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An Ethiopian court Wednesday convicted Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson of supporting a terrorist group and entering the country illegally, with the prosecution calling for a maximum sentence of 18 years and six months.

The Swedes were arrested in Ethiopia's Ogaden region on July 1st in the company of Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) fighters, after entering from Somalia.

"ONLF appeals, in the name of the oppressed people of the Ogaden to the international community, to persuade the Ethiopia regime to release immediately the innocent Swedish journalists," a rebel statement said.

The "unjust conviction... is a clear and unequivocal indication of the nature of the so-called democracy practiced by the Ethiopian regime," they added.

The United States also expressed concern over the conviction of the two Swedish journalists.

"The verdict appears to equate reporting about terrorism with support for terrorism," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner in a statement late Wednesday, adding that Washington "notes with concern" the court's decision.

Reporter Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson were arrested in Ethiopia's Ogaden region on July 1st in the company of rebels from the ONLF after entering Ethiopia from Somalia.

The conviction Wednesday attracted a barrage of criticism from rights

groups and Sweden.

"We recognize the authority of the judicial process in Ethiopia and respect the Ethiopian government's legitimate concerns about terrorism and the need to protect the country's national security," Toner said.

"However, as we have made clear in our ongoing human rights dialogue with the Ethiopian government, a free press is an important element of democratic society.

Story continues below…

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said the two are innocent and must be freed.

The Swedes have admitted entering Ethiopia illegally and to contact with the ONLF as part of their investigations on the activities of Swedish oil company Lundin Oil in the Ogaden, but have rejected terrorism charges.

The ONLF has been fighting for independence of the remote southeastern Ogaden region since 1984, claiming they have been marginalised from Addis Ababa.

The sentencing is expected to be announced on December 27th.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:22 December 23, 2011 by Munir Ahmed
$$$ hungry Swedish reporters ignored well documented ethnic Somali Ogaden (ONLF) terrorist massacres of civilians...Calling yourself "reporter" does not mean license to do anything you want, travel with terrorist, or cross borders illegally.

BBC NEWS: 74 Chinese & Ethiopian oil workers machine-gunned asleep in bed


REUTERS NEWS: UN workers ambushed, killed, kidnapped

16:20 December 23, 2011 by tadchem
There are certain countries with a record of injustice and persecution so long-lasting that it would be foolish to expect anything else from them. To travel to these countries as a foreigner is practically an invitation for disaster.

Most countries on the continent of Africa fit this discription.
18:02 December 23, 2011 by Truth liberates
The Terrorists are the regime of Meles Zenawi. They shot innocent civilian Journalists. They killed 200 civilians in broad daylight in Addis Ababa, the Capital of Ethopia. those people were peacefully demonstrating against the rigging of the elections in Ethiopia by the Meles Regime and party.

Thousands of women are raped in Ogaden for political reasons and as weapons of War. As far as we are aware the Chinese were in Military camp in violation of their neutrality. The ONLF Liberation Army fought the Ethiopian occupation forces, and the Chinese died in the cross fire. No proper investigation by an independent body was ever made regarding who killed who. Ethiopia had a brigade the guarding the Oil field and there was fierce battle.

Ethiopian claims to be a government that has signed international treaties regarding civilians and claiming ONLF did this or that, can not absolve it of it's responsibility towards both the Swedish Journalists and the civilian population in Ogaden.

Beating the bush about irrelevant issues will justify your heinous act against the crimes you committed against these two innocent civilians. Your regime deliberately shot Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson,then kept them in illegal detention and finally set up a bogus court and 'convicted' then of non-existent crimes.

Ethiopia must release these journalists without any precondition and stop the harassment of other journalist in the country.

Furthermore we must address the on-going genocide in Ogaden and must put sufficient pressure on Ethiopia to stop its genocide in Ogaden.

Finally the UN must deal with the Ethiopian regime's blatant violations of Human Rights all over Ethiopia. It got away with the 2005 mass killings. It got away with the mass killings and rape in Ogaden. It got away with The Gambella massacre. it is now getting away with the Human Rights violations of Schebbye and Persson.

Lets us wake up and deal with this pariah regime. Let us deny it the opportunity to use our facilities to silence those who dare tell the truth, not by doing as they did, but showing our feelings and support to our journalists.
10:31 December 24, 2011 by Munir Ahmed
If Black African reporters crossed into Swedish border at night accompanying armed terrorists on a killing mission, got into a firefight with Swedish army and people got killed, Swedes would be outraged...Yet the blatant double standard for Africa exposes White Europeans' superiority complex.
02:01 December 28, 2011 by BBKING

As per your comment only, I know you know little, if not nothing,of Ethiopia. But in reality perhaps you are one of them Derg officials who fled for asylum in Sweden. To claim that the Chinese were killed in a cross fire, shows me that you yourself could be capable of killing. You and I know who commits the crimes in Ogaden. You know the truth but can't get it out of your system because it will collide against your long held hatred towards the Ethiopian government. I have met people like you, they like to accuse instead of analyse what goes on in the region through different spectacles.

For one thing it is clearly stated by the UN Security Council that the only regime that is creating havoc in the region is none other than the Eritrean dictatorship. So there is no need to stick your fingers on Ethiopia unless of course you have a bad taste for Ethiopian people.

The foreign minister of Sweden has admitted that these region is a volatile region and the mere presence of the journalists is beyond any reasonable explanation. Need it be said over and over again that the failed stunts of the journalists is what has gotten them in trouble? Perhaps they thought they could easily get away with it under the cover of a special treatment for professional journalists. How come journalists get away with everything? Aren't these corrupt journalists who under the name of their profession tried to abuse their rights of acquittal and roughen the relations between Sweden and Ethiopia?

As much as they have committed crimes by violating Ethiopia's Terrorism Law, they should be held accountable by the Swedish government for miseducation and lack of professional ethics to the rest of Swedish journalists.
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