Ethiopia frees Swedish journalists
12 September 2012
Two Swedish journalists are among prisoners pardoned by Ethiopia to mark the country's New Year's Day.
Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were jailed in December 2011 for 11 years following their conviction for "supporting a terrorist organisation and illegally entering Ethiopia". The two journalists, who were reportedly pardoned in July by former Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, who died in August, have been freed and are expected to fly home soon, according to media reports.
Jim Boumelha, International Federation of Journalists' president, said:
"Their release will come as huge relief for their families and colleagues. They have spent more than a year in prison on flimsy charges but it is now time to put their ordeal behind them and get on with their lives."
Persson and Schibbye entered Ethiopia via Somaliland to investigate the oil project in the region, focusing on Lundin Oil. The Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, was a shareholder and board member of Lundin Oil before becoming a government minister.
They were arrested by the Ethiopian army after skirmishes between the Ethiopian military and the rebel movement fighting in the Ogaden region in July 2011.
They were sentenced to 11 years in jail last December when an Ethiopian court convicted them of entering the country illegally and supporting terrorism.
Both journalists admit they entered Ethiopia without permission, but strenuously denied any accusations of supporting terrorism.
They did not appeal their conviction, preferring to appeal for clemency based on the Ethiopian tradition of 'pardoning' prisoners on the country's New Year's Day (11 September).
Arne König, President of the European Federation of Journalists president, said:
"There was never an admission of guilt on the terrorism charges, nor any credible evidence to justify their conviction.
"They were just two journalists trying to tell a story of a conflict-stricken area that needs to be told. But they saw little to gain from a protracted appeal process and we are delighted that they are now free."