Two Swedish Journalists Charged With Terrorism in Ethiopia

Ethiopia charged two Swedish journalists with terrorism after detaining them in July with rebels in the Ogaden region, State Minister of Communications Shimeles Kemal said.

Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye appeared in court yesterday, Shimeles said in a telephone interview from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, today. Prosecutors have a video showing the journalists handling guns, he said.

“They have entered the country with a bunch of terrorists,” the minister said. “They have even taken weapons training. Their activity is a bit more than mere journalistic activity.”

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The journalists will be tried for engaging in terrorism, assisting a terrorist organization and entering the country illegally, Shimeles said. They were detained with members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which has been fighting since 1984 for self-determination of Ogaden, located in a province that borders Somalia.

Johan Persson-and-Martin Schibbye-charged-for-terrorism
Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye

The Swedish Foreign Ministry hasn’t received official notification of the charges, Teo Zetterman, a spokesman for the department, said in a telephone interview from Stockholm today.

Ethiopia also brought terrorism charges against two ONLF members and three other journalists, including Elias Kifle, who runs the Washington-based Ethiopian Review website and Woubshet Taye, the deputy editor of the Addis Ababa-based Awramba Times.

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“He is innocent, everybody is innocent, it is clear,” Awramba Times’s editor, Dawit Kebede, said in a phone interview today. “I believe it’s a systematic way to put pressure on our newspaper.”

To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa at wdavison3@bloomberg.net

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