More evidence presented against the two Swedish journalists on trial in Ethiopia has been faked, according to their defense lawyer, who said that his two clients didn’t know the guerrilla soldiers charged alongside them.
“Martin and Johan have told me very decidedly that they had never seen these two guys before. Not during any stage of their journey did they meet these two individuals. They turned up the day after the arrest,” defence lawyer Thomas Olsson told daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).
The trial against Swedish reporters Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, arrested in July in the Ogaden province of Ethiopia on the border of Somalia, an area deemed off-limits by the regime, resumes on Monday.
The two Swedes, who are adamant they are not guilty of the terrorism allegations against them, are facing lengthy prison sentences if convicted.
Schibbye and Persson were charged alongside two guerrilla soldiers who allegedly helped them enter the Ogaden area from neighbouring Somalia. The guerrillas have already been convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison.
However, according to Olsson, the two Swedes claimed never to have seen the two men until a few days following their arrest.
According to DN, the two guerrilla soldiers have been very important to the prosecutor’s case, as their presence in the courtroom tied the two Swedes to the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a separatist rebel group fighting to make Ogaden an independent state.
But even before the two soldiers were convicted, foreign diplomats present in the courtroom feared that theirs was a mock trial.
The men had nothing to say to their defence and allegedly looked happy and relaxed as they left the courtroom to be taken back to prison.
If the two guerrilla soldiers were not connected to Schibbye and Persson, it is not the first time that the prosecution’s evidence has been tampered with.
In November, prosecutors were forced to admit that footage used as evidence against the Swedes had been edited and gun shots added to the audio, were the Swedes are holding rifles, to indicate they were participating in weapons training.
“Sadly this just strengthens our suspicions that there is a political agenda behind this trial, aside from the legal process,” Olsson told DN.