Two Swedish reporters-terrorists found guilty in Ethiopian court
Dec. 21 2011
A court in Ethiopia convicted two Swedish journalists Wednesday of supporting terrorism after the pair illegally entered the country with an ethnic Somali rebel group.
The pair, who now face up to 15 years in prison at their sentencing next week, have said they were gathering news at the time of their arrest.
However, Judge Shemsu Sirgaga said that was "very unlikely," accusing the Ogaden National Liberation Front of organizing the Swedes' journey starting in London via Kenya and Somalia into Ethiopia. Outlawed groups in many countries frequently facilitate the travels of reporters in order to have their version of events told.
Ethiopian troops captured Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye six months ago during a clash with rebels in Ethiopia's restive Somali region in the country's east, a no-go area for reporters. Ethiopia considers the rebel group a terrorist organization, and it is very difficult for journalists to gain access to the region. Rights groups say that is so abuses there are not exposed.
The chairman of the Swedish Union of Journalists, Jonas Nordling, deplored the conviction, saying it is clearly aimed at deterring reporters from investigating alleged human rights abuses in the Ogaden.
"This is a political verdict," Nordling said. "There is no evidence to support that this is a terror crime."
"They are two established reporters who have used accepted journalistic methods to enter the area," he said, adding Ethiopian officials "absolutely do not want to see an open examination of what happens in the Ogaden area."