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'It was the biggest mistake of our lives'

11 Sep 2012, 07:46

Published: 11 Sep 2012 07:46 GMT+02:00

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Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye left an Ethiopian prison on Monday afternoon for the safe confines of the Swedish embassy in Addis Ababa where they spent most of the evening before boarding a plane shortly after midnight.

"They are in good spirits," Sweden's ambassador to Ethiopia, Jens Odlander, told the TT news agency.

"They arrived here around 5pm local time. We've had a beer and eaten Jansson's, as well as blueberry muffins," he added, referring to Jansson's Temptation, a traditional Swedish casserole of creamy potatoes and anchovies.

Shortly before taking off for an undisclosed destination, Schibbye told TT that he was still trying to grasp the fact that he and Persson had been released.

"To once again be free was almost a bigger shock than being in prison," he said.

Schibbye and Persson were arrested in Ethiopia's Ogaden region last year in the company of what the government claimed were rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

The two had reportedly entered Ethiopia to investigate the activities of a company affiliated with the Swedish oil firm Lundin Petroleum.

The pair was detained after illegally crossing the border from Somalia, and after a long and controversial trial were jailed for 11 years by an Ethiopian court in December 2011, having been found guilty of supporting terrorism and entering the country illegally.

Their conviction drew criticism from rights groups who claimed Ethiopia's anti-terror law was vague and indiscriminate. Nevertheless, the Swedish journalists opted not to appeal the ruling and instead hope for a pardon.

Following a flurry of rumours at the weekend that a pardon for the two was imminent, Ethiopian government officials confirmed on Monday afternoon that Schibbye and Persson had been released.

According to Ethiopian Minister of Justice Berhan Hailu, the two Swedes had “shown true regret for their crimes and behaved well in prison”.

Speaking with Ethiopian television shortly after the pair's release, Schibbye expressed his regret over entering Ethiopia illegally, calling it "the biggest mistake of my life".

"A mistake that almost cost us our lives," he said.

Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt hailed the Swedes' release via a statement released via his official Twitter account.

"I warmly welcome that the Ethiopian authorities have now released Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson and allowed them to leave the country," Bildt wrote.

Story continues below…

By early Tuesday morning, the plane carrying the Swedish journalists had landed at an undisclosed location, according to a statement from their families delivered by Anna Roxvall, a colleague of the previously jailed Swedes.

"Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye have just landed somewhere where they can catch their breath," said the statement, according to the TT news agency.

"We are incredibly relieved and happy that they are free and that we will soon all be reunited. It's been a tough year and we've been forced to make many hard decisions in order to reach the goal of having them feel as well as one can while in prison and get them released as soon as possible. Now we are there and it feels great."

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Your comments about this article

08:37 September 11, 2012 by themoron
themoron says:

hurray for Carl Bildt. He is the hero. Swedes should make a parade in his honor. Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson must buy him a gas station so that he can keep on selling oil.

Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson are free. Welcome home!

Just be careful when you take another task. Check your passports; check everything. Do not trust the word of anybody.

You will be by yourselves and you will respond to yourselves.

Do not forget that humans are the only animals that can make the same mistake over and over again.
09:12 September 11, 2012 by robban70226
I hope that other ournalists lear something from their stupidity
09:41 September 11, 2012 by byke
I have never read such biased journalistic, propaganda drivel.

"government claimed"

Seriously, one really has to ask the reason behind such articles.

And what agenda they are looking to serve?

Heja Sverige LOL
10:07 September 11, 2012 by RobinHood
These men were convicted nine months ago of international terrorism and jailed for eleven years. International terrorism is a very serious offence, eleven years seems reasonable. But nine months later, they are out!

SÄPO and the CIA must be very interested to learn what these international terrorists have been up to. Or is the Ethiopian justice system so disrespected by the rest of the world, no one except the judge believes they are international terrorists at all? Surely not, that would be extremely embarrassing for Ethiopia.
10:33 September 11, 2012 by byke
So Cambodia received 57 million US dollars in aid after giving up wanted Swedish Pirate Bay founder. Who in turn helped start off the Pirate Bay political party which saw huge support when it came to political power a few years back. And became a political threat to established parties in Sweden in both terms of long term alliances forged with other governments.

And now we see Carl Bildt forming close links with Ethiopia which has no political or real economic value to Sweden, apart from this issue regarding swedish nationals not only caught but convicted on very serious crimes.

I wonder if we will see an aid package being sent to Ethiopia soon, or maybe some other political influence? All while Sweden attempts to smear Ethiopia with accusations in an attempt to delegitimize any conviction against 2 well published Swedes.
11:12 September 11, 2012 by themoron
themoron says:

@byke #5

Right on target!
11:35 September 11, 2012 by truthworthy
Biggest mistake to bow down for brutal dictatorship that doesn't respect human rights and press freedom.
12:33 September 11, 2012 by themoron
themoron says:

I just wonder!

Source: Swedish International Development

Cooperation Agency

Page and Volvo mechanic training in Ethiopia

Published: July 13, 2012

Updated: July 13, 2012

In a joint project with Volvo Construction Equipment start page an advanced training for mechanics in Addis Ababa. Until 2017 betting Page 16 million in the project, which aims to increase the number of trained technicians in sub-Saharan Africa.

Additional 50 million to save lives in Ethiopia

Published: August 12, 2011

Updated: August 12, 2011

Sida has decided to provide an additional 50 million to the effort to save lives and alleviate suffering in Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa. - Of that 40 million to a fund that can quickly step in with resources when needed and where needed. 10 million UNICEF will use to include saving 200,000 malnourished children and investigate 600,000 pregnant and lactating women, says Elizabeth Narrowe, administrator of Sida's humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa.
15:49 September 11, 2012 by T.M

We suggested in an earlier post that you should go ahead and ask Meles Zenawi for "pardon". By asking for pardon you also win. Think of it this way: Meles has no choice but to pardon you. The other day Bengt Nilsson [the Swedish reporter who embedded with Meles Zenawi's guerrilla group in late-1980s] said that "Ethiopian culture is very different from Sweden, and there's a custom to accept that you are guilty as a prisoner and then appeal for pardon." He is right in that Ethiopian culture is different from Swedish. Every one is aware of that. Our problem is with the latter part of the statement; it is not our custom to abuse someone and demand a pardon. Mr. Meles is once again using a cherished value to suit his diabolic purposes - that is, humiliate someone and pretend justice is running its course and then making a big entrance as pardoner.

At any rate, you will be out. And then what? Then a new chapter begins for you. Let us summarize what you went through. First, you took chances to enter Ethiopia illegally. Nothing new there; every correspondent since antiquity has done that. Bengt and BBC correspondents did that. The difference is they were not caught and they managed to bring to the rest of the world a report very favorable to Meles's insurgency group. That was a Cold-War era where the conflict was framed as between the forces of tyranny and freedom. Do you see the irony of it now? The reporters then failed to suspect that Meles and his group were feeding them cans of lies about how donated money and food aid was being used or how victory was won. ... Third, unlike Ethiopians you have not been tortured or physically abused. Fourth, there was an attempt to doctor your rolls of video tapes to link you to explosives but that did not have much traction as your side would have requested the presence of international experts to adjudicate the veracity of government statements. Not so for Ethiopians. ... As if the injustices and torture they underwent was not enough, Ethiopians are required to sign to not write or speak again or engage in the affairs of their nation. That was what happened to Ms. Birtukan [jailed twice for nearly 4 years] and to Eskinder [jailed for the 8th time].

Go ahead and ask for pardon and the day you are out of jail, first, thank the US government for intervening in your behalf [not forgetting the fact that the US has failed Ethiopians in support of Mr. Meles's tyrannical rule] and second, resolve to dedicate your life to fight injustice in Ethiopia. We don't believe you have any choice. Bengt Nilsson also should enlist his journalist friends and go back and re-check if the information they were provided in the 1980s were indeed true. ...
15:51 September 11, 2012 by BlackLion
You may criticize the Ethiopian government for many things,but they got it right this time.They let them free - demonstrating African clemency in Ethiopia's own terms, traditions and chosen time.They crossed borders visa-less to promote separatist rebels. Our brothers in Sweden need to understand that that is exactly how we lost the our entire red sea outlet and got landlocked - western adventurist journalists coming and promoting northern rebels.

If we let secession sympathisers jump in jump out as they want illegally to romanticize and promote all kinds of lunatic tribal secessionists, we will all end up with no country entirely.

Sweden is historically good for Ethiopia, pardoning and letting them go was the right thing to do.
20:39 September 11, 2012 by themoron
themoron says:

Why must the Swedish taxpayers pay for their release?

Of course that Sweden has been historically good for Ethiopia. More than 290 million Swedish Crowns as subsidy just in 2011 talk by themselves.

Why do your Bildt and your Reinfeldt claim that it was the "silent" diplomacy that function, when everybody knows they were pardoned before Bildt went to Ethiopia and money talked during more than one year?

Oh Swedes! Naivity is thy name.
17:42 September 13, 2012 by Munir Ahmed
Resume of Somali-Ogaden terrorists the leftist Swedish reporters championed as freedom fighters and hired as guides for illegal border crossing:

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


REUTERS NEWS: UN workers ambushed, killed, kidnapped

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