October 18, 2011

Ethiopia postponed the trial of two Swedish journalists for “terrorism”

The trial of two Swedish journalists accused of “terrorist” by the Ethiopian court, which was opened on Tuesday, was postponed to Thursday to allow their co-defendants to obtain a lawyer.

Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye have been detained since their arrest on July 1. They were arrested as they had entered Ethiopia through Somalia, with members of the National Front for the Liberation of Ogaden (ONLF), a rebel group called “terrorist” by Addis Ababa.

Since its inception in 1984, the ONLF struggle for independence in the Ogaden region of southeastern Ethiopia in Somali majority.

The two journalists were charged in September of “terrorist activity, supporting a terrorist group and for illegally entered the territory of Ethiopia.” If convicted, they face up to 15 years in prison.

The trial was postponed to allow two co-defendants, Somalis Addie Ababa accuses of illegally crossing the border with Sweden and the members of ONLF, get a lawyer.

On Tuesday, “we were supposed to present our objections to the charges (…) but as they should be heard together with those of other defendants, has been postponed,” said the lawyer for the Swedish, Sileshi Ketsela to outside the courtroom in Addis Ababa.
Secure a trial

In Sweden, the case was transferred to the controversy with the approach of the trial.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, was charged with failing to properly and helped the two men have said they were responsible for their fate because they were in an area where Stockholm advises “all trips. ”

Some media have even suspected the minister for conflict of interest, revealing that the journalists were in the Ogaden to investigate the activities of Africa Oil, a company associated with Lundin Petroleum, a Swedish oil company of which Mr. Bildt was director from 2000 to 2006.

Outside the courtroom, the Swedish ambassador in Addis Ababa, Jens Odlander, strongly denied the accusations. He took a “personal insult” that the government would have dragged its feet to protect journalists.

Tuesday for their first hearing, the two Swedes were themselves smiling in court, found an AFP journalist. When they withdrew, Schibbye Martin, who turned 31 years on Monday launched a kiss to the crowd.

A hundred people came to attend the hearing, mostly foreigners. Of armed security forces guarded the premises.

Advocacy organizations have the media on their side not hide their concern about the trial and its outcome.

Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) estimated an add Ababa was “undermining (…) to be presumed innocent journalists by presenting them to the media as accomplices of terrorists, accusing them of terrorism without the presence of their lawyers and with public accusations against them. ”

“The outcome of their trial is ever traced before being open ‘,” went further Tuesday Reporters Without Borders, before asking the EU to “look into this matter and to use its relationship with Ethiopia to reach an acceptable outcome. ”


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