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Swedish journalists jailed in Ethiopia for 11 years as the Swedish government accused of lacklustre

Tuesday, 27 December 2011
Two Swedish journalists tried and found guilty recently in Ethiopia for various counts of offences including illegal entry and the promotion of terrorism have on Tuesday, been sentenced to 11 years in prison.

The two Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, who were convicted on Dec. 21 in an Ethiopian court for illegal entry and the promotion of terrorism, have now been
Sentenced to 11 years in prison, reports various Swedish and international media houses.

The prison Penalty was given on ground that it was a warning to others that Ethiopia is not a country where people will come from somewhere to exercise activities that are found to be illegal in the country. This should send a signal  to would be adventurers to back off from similar crimes.

Probably, the judge has some sympathy and gave them only 11 years instead of about 18.
Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson showed no emotion when the sentence was announced, writes AFP and Reuters. They looked at the judge expressionlessly when the sentence was read out and translated. No family members were present in the courtroom.

The two Swedes as well as the prosecution service, now has 15 days to appeal. They can also choose to instead seek a pardon.

The two Swedes' lawyer, Thomas Olsson spoke to Swedish television this morning and said that:
“We will try to adapt to the new situation and assist as best we can.”
It has now been left to the Swedes to either decide to appeal the ruling, which can take up to two years in the legal process, or to instead to seek a pardon.

“The latter means that one must accept guilt of these crimes and apologize, which of course is receives when it is considered that one is not to be innocent. Therefore, the appeal is natural, but it is a difficult decision,” said attorney Thomas Ohlsson to Swedish television.

Journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson have admitted that they entered the country illegally but refused to agree that they supported the rebels of the Ogaden region which is why they are being accused of promoting terror.

However, the Swedish government has continued to come under intense pressure as criticism to its behaviours in the whole has been deemed lacklustre.
A journalist, Lars-Erik Eklund who was once held and later released has posited that has the Swedish government increased pressure on the Ethiopian authorities, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson would have been released.

The journalist, Lars-Erik Eklund, who also sat in Ethiopian jail for some time is not happy with the behaviours of the Swedish government and question the tenet of the government support to its citizens in trouble aboard. 

“Those who we choose to run the country must have the courage to stand up for us in crisis. When the sentence has fallen, it is too late for the government to act,” says Lars-Erik Eklund.

The two Swedish journalists' fate has brought traumatic memories of Lars-Erik Eklund. He was in Ethiopia to investigate and report on the revolution in 1975 as a freelance journalist when he was arrested and was sitting in Mengistus jail for a week.

Mengistu was a Marxist and headed the military junta that ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987 before being appointed president.

“I was accused of being a CIA agent and was taken to the notorious torture prison. I was a 27-year-old journalist who was sure to be executed. My whole world collapsed,” he says.

Although there has been many years since Lars-Erik Eklund’s ordeal, there are  several parallels between his situation and that of Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson. One is the lack of active support from the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), which he believes is acting mostly as observers when Swedish citizens get into trouble.
By Scancomark.se Team

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