News24

US 'concerned' over Swedish journos

2011-12-22 13:11

Washington - The United States expressed concern over the conviction of two Swedish journalists in Ethiopia for supporting a terrorist group.

"The verdict appears to equate reporting about terrorism with support for terrorism," said State Department spokesperson Mark Toner in a statement late on Wednesday, adding that Washington "notes with concern" the court's decision.

Prosecutors have called for a maximum sentence of over 18 years in prison.

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.

The conviction on Wednesday attracted a barrage of criticism from rights groups and Sweden.

"We recognise the authority of the judicial process in Ethiopia and respect the Ethiopian government's legitimate concerns about terrorism and the need to protect the country's national security," Toner said.

"However, as we have made clear in our ongoing human rights dialogue with the Ethiopian government, a free press is an important element of democratic society.

The sentencing is expected to be announced on December 27.