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SWEDES CONVICTED IN ETHIOPIA

ETHIOPIA

Swedish journos jailed for 11 years in Ethiopia

An Ethiopian court on Tuesday sentenced two Swedish journalists to 11 years in jail for supporting terrorism and entering the country illegally.

“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.

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.

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ISRAEL

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.

IN PICTURES: 2,000 hit the streets of Stockholm to protest Israel 

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."

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