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PARDONED SWEDES COME HOME

PRESS

‘We feel good and are incredibly relieved’

Reporters Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye are home again after 14 months in Ethiopian prison, telling press at Arlanda airport in Stockholm that it feels “incredibly nice” to be in a country where they could “speak freely” again.

'We feel good and are incredibly relieved'

After the men were pardoned on Monday, they flew to Istanbul and then on to Sweden to arrive just before midday on Friday.

The men hugged relatives, received flowers and were photographed with family members.

“We feel good and are incredibly relieved,” they told the TT news agency.

Persson and Schibbye will speak further at a press conference in Stockholm on Friday afternoon.

After ten minutes at the airport, the Swedes left in a car. Ambassador Jens Odlander, who accompanied the pair from Istanbul, joined the two in interviews but left separately.

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.

The pair was pardoned on Monday in connection with the Ethiopian New Year, when the country traditionally pardons prisoners.

TT/The Local/og

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H&M

Fashion retailer H&M plans Ethiopia expansion

Swedish fashion retailer Hennes and Mauritz (H&M) said Friday it would expand its network of suppliers to Ethiopia, after concentrating 80 percent of its production in Asian countries.

Fashion retailer H&M plans Ethiopia expansion

“We are an expansive company and are constantly looking at new potential purchasing markets to guarantee that we have capacity to deliver products to all stores in our expansive markets,” H&M spokeswoman Camilla Emilsson-Falk told AFP.

“We do that by increasing the productivity on the existing production markets as well as looking at new markets,” she added.

Test orders have been placed with Ethiopian suppliers and new factories will be built this autumn, but it is too early to say how many suppliers will be used and when the factories will be ready for production, according to Emilsson-Falk.

The East African country has had a long history in textile, leather and shoe production since its Italian occupation in 1939. Other apparel retailers have already begun sourcing products in the country, including Tesco and Chinese shoe-manufacturer Huajian, providing footwear to Guess and Tommy Hilfiger.

“Ethiopia is a country with strong development and we trust that we can sustain economic growth and job opportunities there,” said Emilsson-Falk.

Despite strong economic growth, 9.9 percent on yearly average since 2004 according to the World Bank, the sub-Saharan nation remains one of the world’s

poorest. And one year after the death of prime minister Meles Zenawi, the country is still criticised for its lack of human rights by watchdog organisations.

“We did an extensive risk analysis for Ethiopia, looking at human rights and environmental issues in the country,” said Emilsson-Falk.

“We have worked with improvement of working conditions in our production countries for many years and will apply our experience when establishing relationships with the Ethiopian suppliers.”

H&M, which has stores in Egypt and Morocco, has no concrete plans for further expansion in Africa.

Two Swedish journalists who were kept in jail for 14 months in the country were released in September 2012.

TT/AFP/The Local/pvs

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