_Ethiopia_for_terrorism> Swedish journalists to be tried in Ethiopia for
Oct 16 2011 11:39AM
Two Swedish journalists charged with terrorism in Ethiopia last month will
face trial on Tuesday in Addis Ababa, with rights groups already criticising
Photographer Johan Persson and reporter Martin Schibbye, both freelancers,
have been held in jail since they were arrested on July 1 with Ogaden
National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels after a battle with government
The Swedes were wounded during the gunfight, in which 15 rebels were
On September 7, they were charged with being engaged in terrorist
activities, aiding and abetting a terrorist group, and entering the country
illegally without permission from neighbouring Somalia.
Sweden's foreign ministry said Stockholm had not expected the charges of
terrorism, but anticipates they will be dropped.
"We were surprised and disappointed by this, because we believe in their
claims to be journalists, I can't see any reason why these charges will not
be dropped," ministry spokesman Andres Jorle told AFP.
The process has already caused controversy. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles
Zenawi told Norway's Aftenposten newspaper last Monday they are "at the very
least messenger boys of a terrorist organization, they are not journalists."
The comments sparked an angry condemnation from the New York-based media
rights watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
"The Ethiopian government has compromised their fundamental rights of
defence chiefly, the presumption of innocence by portraying them in the
media as accomplices to terrorists," the CPJ said in a statement.
The trial also casts rare light on Ethiopia's south-eastern impoverished
Ogaden region, home to ethnic Somalis and the ONLF rebels, who have been
fighting for independence from the central government since 1984.
The recent discovery of oil and gas in Ogaden has brought hopes of wealth,
but also new sources of conflict, with the ONLF threatening foreign workers
and the government cracking down on opposition it says are rebels.
"The Ogaden has become strategically quite important because these resources
need to be exploited," said David Anderson, professor of African politics at
Oxford University, adding that the region has become an "embarrassment" for
the regime in Addis Ababa.
International rights groups say the Ethiopian government has already made
widespread use of anti-terror legislation to crack down on suspected
The law is a "smokescreen for imposing a set of promulgations that allow the
government to deal with its opponents," Anderson said, adding that it allows
"an unscrupulous government to behave unscrupulously."
At least 157 people -- mainly journalists and opposition members -- have
been arrested since May on suspicion of being connected with various
outlawed groups, detentions heavily criticised by Amnesty International.
"All these arrests are just abusing the anti-terror legislation, or misusing
it, to stifle freedom of expression," said Amnesty's Ethiopia researcher
Addis Ababa rejects the accusations, saying the arrests are a legitimate
response to a network of rebels it claims are backed by long-term foe and
neighbour, Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki.
"There is a conspiracy under way that tried to animate a series of terrorist
attacks all over the country," government spokesman Shimeles Kemal
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Received on Sun Oct 16 2011 - 06:38:20 EDT