Swedish journalists sentenced to 11 yrs in prison
Dec. 27 2011
Federal High Court on Tuesday sentenced two Swedish journalists to 11 years in prison.
Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were found guilty of rendering support to terrorism and illegal entry into Ethiopia last week.
“The court has accepted as mitigating grounds absence of any prior criminal records against the defendants,” Judge Shemsu Sirgaga said in reading. The defendants’ support to their families is also taken as a mitigating ground, the court has said.
Federal prosecutors had asked for 18 years and a half imprisonment for both crimes, however the court rejected all of the aggravating circumstances cited by the prosecution.
“The aggravating circumstances raised by the prosecution are elements which constituted the crime,” said the judge.
The court has also ordered the confiscation of various electronic equipments seized from the defendants after the pair, through their defense lawyers, raised no objections to the prosecution’s plea for confiscation.
The defendants, dressed in suits and ties, were expressionless as the sentencing was handed out to them. Abebe Balcha, one of the defense lawyers, gave Schibbye a tap on the shoulders as the case, which drew much international attention, finds its conclusion.
The defendants were escorted by prison officers back to the Addis Ababa Prison Center where they will be serving their sentence with a decision to appeal yet to be made by their lawyers.
“We have 15 days to make a decision whether to appeal the case but we will decide by Thursday,” Sileshi Ketsela, the Swedes’ defense lawyer, told a group of journalists outside the court.
Although satisfied with the conviction, federal prosecutors would also deliberate whether to appeal on the sentence, according to one of the prosecutor.
The two Swedes were captured with a team of ONLF terrorist fighters on July 1, 2011 after an ambush which left 15 of the terrorist group fighters dead. Two of the ONLF terrorist fighters arrested with the Swedes are sentenced to 17 years in prison.