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Swedish journos jailed for 11 years in Ethiopia

AFP/The Local · 27 Dec 2011, 14:03

Published: 27 Dec 2011 08:28 GMT+01:00
Updated: 27 Dec 2011 14:03 GMT+01:00

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"The sentence should be punishment of 11 years imprisonment," Judge Shemsu Sirgaga told the court in the Amharic language through a translator.

"This sentence should satisfy the goal of peace and security," he added.

Both Swedes showed no emotion at the sentencing, according to an AFP reporter in the court.

Reporter Schibbye and photographer Persson -- both freelancers -- were arrested in Ethiopia's Ogaden region on July 1st after entering the country from Somalia.

They were arrested after a gun battle erupted between Ethiopian troops and ONLF fighters, and are charged with supporting a terrorist group and entering the country illegally.

Last Wednesday, the court found them guilty of supporting a terrorist group and for entering the country illegally, with the prosecution calling for a maximum sentence of 18 years and six months in prison.

Their conviction, last Wednesday, attracted a barrage of criticism from Sweden and international rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

However, after Tuesday's sentencing, Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon said: "We live by the decision and we fully accept the decision," dismissing the concerns of rights groups.

"These are the same organisations who are interested only in regime change. We feel these people do not understand the concept of rule of law."

Defence lawyer Abebe Balcha said the pair would decide later in the week whether to appeal against the sentencing.

"I am not satisfied, as a lawyer for the defendants, I do not agree with the decision," Abebe said outside the court.

"We will be talking to them (the Swedes) again on Thursday, and then we will decide again on our plans on whether to appeal," he said, adding that the judges had originally planned to give the Swedes a longer jail term.

"The court has actually passed 14 years six months first, and then mitigated it down," he said, noting the sentence was reduced "because of the reputation of the defendants and also that they have never been involved in crime before."

Following their conviction, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt also said Schibbye and Persson were innocent and should be set free.

Story continues below…

The journalists both testified they were in Ethiopia to report on the activities of the Swedish oil company Lundin Oil in the Ogaden.

They said they met ONLF chiefs in London and Nairobi before meeting with about 20 members of the group in Ethiopia, about 40 kilometres from the Somali border.

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

Last month, charges of participating in terrorism were dropped for lack of evidence.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:57 December 27, 2011 by Methusalem
Two left-wing journalists fighting alongside Muslim terrorists -- this sounds very familiar. These two should accept their stupid mistake, learn from it and be a better human being. We all die at 80 or 90, after all.
19:18 December 27, 2011 by kynan
Just a typical Ethiopian dictator who sees journalists as rebels and their cameras as an improvised explosive device (IED)
20:33 December 27, 2011 by ye_hiwot
The Ethiopian side was firm to its belief that the swedes has violated the rule of law. International right groups, such as HRW and Amnesty International (better to spell as 'AmNasty International) are telling us violating the territories of a sovereign nation and accompanying outlawed groups is legitimate. No matter how the judiciary system in Ethiopia is at infantry stage, such right organizations are either politically motivated or uneven handed. Otherwise, do they question the racial discrimination against blacks in the west and Sweden for that matter? As the saying goes on 'better to trust a devil you know than an angel that you don't know'. My point is that such organisations are not saviors. In fact the situation is worse with them. The Swedish government must continue its diplomatic engagement for the sake of the journalists and their families.
00:07 December 28, 2011 by DeadPrez
So the Ethiopian regime thinks International rights groups such as HRW, Amnesty International, UN, Red Cross and all media outlets such as CNN, VOA, BBC, Al Jazeera somehow formed a conspiracy against it. Plz

You expel journalists and aid workers from a drought stricken area for one reason and one reason only. ETHNIC CLEANSING
09:06 December 28, 2011 by Munir Ahmed
Swedes' own confiscated videotape screened in court showed them laughing, practicing shooting AK-47, and they crossed Somali-Ethiopian border at night with Somali-Ogaden (ONLF) murderous terrorists...But all that should be ignored because they are White skinned? Ignorance is not an excuse.

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


REUTERS NEWS: UN workers ambushed, killed, kidnapped

18:45 December 28, 2011 by TEDLA
There is no doubt in mind that the Swedish journalists, (Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson)sentenced by the TPLF kangaroo court to 11 years in prison will soon be released. I am sure they or their government will never plead for clemency. These journalists have the international community (their own government and other democratic nations) behind them to defend their rights as free journalists. We are already witnessing the position of US's Department of State against this ruling and that of the Swedish media demanding their government to advocate for the unconditional release of the two journalists.

I am glad that by proxy, this sentencing on the Swedish journalists will help all those TPLF enabler western governments to reflect on how arbitrarily the TPLF junta was handling the case of justice for multitudes of Ethiopians that were detained en-masse in TPLF detention camps since the junta came into power.

I am sure, it should be our duty to push for the release of Ethiopian journalists and other prisoners of conscience, as the west puts pressure on TPLF for the release of these two Swedish journalists.
11:05 December 29, 2011 by Munir Ahmed

Mr. Schibbey used to be the editor for the magazine "Rebell", the official paper of "RKU", Sweden's Revolutionary Communist Party's youth organisation. Communism á la Marxism Leninism.

Mr. Schibbey and his comrades declared that Sweden only can be reformed by revolution, armed revolution if necessary, and that Stalin's murderous campaigns, terrors equalling Hitler's, were mere fabrications of the ruling class and thus untrue.

As for the concept of democracy, Mr. Schibbey and "RKU" proclaimed that the dictatorship of the proletariat is the ultimate form of democracy.

Obviously Mr. Schibbey deserves a fair trial; nonetheless it seems ironic that Mr. Schibbey now is on the receiving end of a totalitarian Marxist Leninist state's legal system.
14:32 December 29, 2011 by Extraterrestrial
@ Munir Ahmed

Can you also explain it to me how is that a believer in the dictatorship of the proletariat have in common with those ultra Islamist suicide bombers dreaming of virgins in heaven?

Do you think Mr. Schibbey was duped by the virgin theory of the ONLF Islamist's suicidal mission in the Ethiopian Eastern borders? I just don't understand how a communist and an Islamist terrorist can go together?
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