“There is a tradition of pardon and forgiveness in Ethiopia and we choose to put our trust in this tradition,” Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson said in a short statement after reaching their decision.
The deadline to appeal the verdict lapsed at 3pm CET on Tuesday. As neither the prosecutors nor the Swedes have filed an appeal, the sentence will come into force on Wednesday.
According to the two reporters’ contact person, Anna Roxwall, they delayed their decision to give the prosecutors as little time as possible to lodge an appeal.
“They have been making up lists for and against. They have also been consulting people who know how this works. And it is a decision that family and friends support. We think it is a good decision,” Roxwall told daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).
Reporter Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson were arrested in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region on July 1st in the company of rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) after entering Ethiopia from Somalia.
Both journalists had admitted contact with the ONLF and to entering Ethiopia illegally, but rejected terrorism charges, which included accusations that they had received weapons training.
Persson said their meeting the ONLF contacts had been for professional reasons only, as part of an investigation into the activities of Swedish oil company Lundin Oil.
In December Persson and Schibbye were convicted by the Ethiopian court and sentenced to 11 years imprisonment. It was not known until the very last minute whether they would appeal or not.
For a pardoning process to commence, the two Swedes will have to pen a letter to the Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi, according to DN.
They will also need to confess in writing and apologize for entering the country illegally and being in contact with the ONLF.
However, this decision does not change the Swedish government’s and foreign ministry’s attitude to the verdict.
“We will continue to give support and the aim is to have the two Swedish journalists released,” said Anders Jörle of the foreign ministry’s information service to DN.