Tuesday, December 27, 2011
An Ethiopian court sentenced two Swedish journalists to 11 years in
jail for supporting terrorism and entering the country illegally, after a
trial criticised by rights groups.
"The sentence should be
punishment of 11 years imprisonment," Judge Shemsu Sirgaga on Tuesday
told the court in the Amharic language through a translator.
"This sentence should satisfy the goal of peace and security," he added.
Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson were arrested in
Ethiopia's Ogaden region on July 1 in the company of rebels from the
Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) after entering Ethiopia from
Both Swedes showed no emotion at the sentencing, as if in shock, according to an AFP reporter in the court.
Prosecutors last week at the verdict had called for a maximum sentence of 18 years and six months in prison.
conviction, last Wednesday, attracted a barrage of criticism from
Sweden and international rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and
Defence lawyer Abebe Balcha said the pair would decide later in the week whether to appeal against the sentencing.
"I am not satisfied, as a lawyer for the defendants, I do not agree with the decision," Abebe said outside the court.
will be talking to them (the Swedes) again on Thursday, and then we
will decide again on our plans on whether to appeal," he said, adding
that the judges had originally planned to give the Swedes a longer jail
"The court has actually passed 14 years six months first,
and then mitigated it down," he said, noting the sentence was reduced
"because of the reputation of the defendants and also that they have
never been involved in crime before."
Both journalists had
admitted contact with the ONLF and to entering Ethiopia illegally, but
rejected terrorism charges including accusations they had received
Following their conviction, Swedish Prime
Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said Schibbye and Persson were innocent and
should be set free.
The two said they met ONLF chiefs in London
and Nairobi before meeting with about 20 members of the group in
Ethiopia, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Somali border.
said their meeting the ONLF contacts had been for professional reasons
only, as part of their investigation of the activities of Swedish oil
company Lundin Oil the two were to report on.
The ONLF has been
fighting for independence of the remote southeastern Ogaden region since
1984, claiming they have been marginalised from Addis Ababa.
Last month, charges of participating in terrorism were dropped for lack of evidence.