NAIROBI — Ethiopian rebels said on Thursday the conviction of two Swedish journalists on terrorism charges for supporting the group was “unjust” as they were innocent and called for their release.
An Ethiopian court Wednesday convicted Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson of supporting a terrorist group and entering the country illegally, with the prosecution calling for a maximum sentence of 18 years and six months.
The Swedes were arrested in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region on July 1 in the company of Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) fighters, after entering from Somalia.
“ONLF appeals, in the name of the oppressed people of the Ogaden to the international community, to persuade the Ethiopia regime to release immediately the innocent Swedish journalists,” a rebel statement said.
The “unjust conviction… is a clear and unequivocal indication of the nature of the so-called democracy practiced by the Ethiopian regime,” they added.
The conviction has attracted a barrage of criticism from rights groups, while Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said the two are innocent and must be freed. Their sentences are to be announced on December 27.
The Swedes have admitted entering Ethiopia illegally and to contact with the ONLF as part of their investigations on the activities of Swedish oil company Lundin Oil in the Ogaden, but have rejected terrorism charges.
The ONLF has been fighting for independence of the remote southeastern Ogaden region since 1984, claiming they have been marginalised from Addis Ababa