Ethiopia: Swedish journalists get 11 years

2011-12-27 22:13

kalahari.com

  • Sweden.
    This title helps you to discover Sweden region by region; from the mountains and virgin forests and... Now R280.00
    buy now

Addis Ababa - An Ethiopian court on Tuesday sentenced two Swedish journalists to 11 years in jail for supporting terrorism and entering the country illegally, after a trial criticised by rights groups.

"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.

Reporter Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson were arrested in Ethiopia's Ogaden region on July 1 in the company of rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) after entering Ethiopia from Somalia.

Both Swedes showed no emotion at the sentencing, as if in shock, according to an AFP reporter in the court. A defence lawyer patted Schibbye on the arm as the sentence was read out.

Defence lawyer Abebe Balcha said they would decide later in the week whether to appeal.

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

The Swedish Union of Journalists condemned the jail term as a "political sentence" and called on Sweden to intervene.

Political resolution

"The Swedish government has the heavy responsibility of resolving this at the political level," union president Jonas Nordling said in a statement.

Sweden has asked the United States and the EU for help "to ensure their liberation as soon as possible," state secretary for foreign affairs Frank Belfrage told the TT news agency.

Judges had initially sentenced the pair to 11 years and three months for supporting terrorism and a further three years and three months for entering the country illegally, the court heard.

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

Johan's father, Kjell Persson, told AFP on the phone from Sweden that the trial had been difficult on the family.

"It was a tough time for us, but we met Johan four or five times and he's taken it well, it's good for us to see that," he said.

The two men were convicted last Wednesday and prosecutors had called for a maximum sentence of 18 years and six months in prison.

Their sentencing drew heavy criticism from rights groups, with Amnesty International calling for their immediate and unconditional release.

Sham conviction

Reporters Without Borders (RSF - Reporters Sans Frontieres) said the sentence was "deplorable" and claimed it was a threat by the government to deter "potentially embarrassing" reporting.

Human Rights Watch slammed both the "sham convictions" and Ethiopia's anti-terrorism law, which it said was used to "suppress the legitimate work of the media". It noted that 29 Ethiopian journalists and opposition members were also on trial under the same law.

However, after Tuesday's sentencing, Ethiopian government spokesperson 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."

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.

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

Addis Ababa has blocked almost all international media access to Ogaden, where where oil and gas reserves have brought both hopes of wealth but also fears of increased conflict.

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.

Read more on:    sweden  |  ethiopia  |  media  |  east africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/World
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Muizenberg - 12:29 PM
    Road name: Atlantic Road
    TRUCK ACCIDENT near Main Road - expect delays
  • Thursday Montague Gardens - 11:42 AM
    Road name: Montague Drive Southbound
    DELAYS approaching Bosmansdam Road due to roadworks
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2 TV Series for R250

Get 2 TV Series box sets for R250 and save up to R148! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Pre-order the Xbox One

Get this all-in-one entertainment system with live TV, movies, social networking and gaming. Pre-order now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Nokia Lumia 800

The stunningly social Nokia Lumia 800 features head-turning design, ...

From R2775.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Your heart is big and you are sensitive to the needs of those around you. Your humanitarian side is emphasized today and you may...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.