Conflict & Justice

Swedish journalists cleared of terrorism charge, other charges pending


Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye (left) and Johan Persson (right). They currently are scheduled for trial in Ethiopia Thursday on terrorism charges.

A judge in a terrorism trial against two Swedish journalists arrested in Ethiopia accepted the prosecution’s argument that the pair supported a terrorist organization, the AP reported

Judge Shemsu Sirgaga made the approval Thursday as the government’s prosecuting team closed its case at the trial in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Adaba.

Journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were charged in October with engaging in terrorist activities, assisting a terrorist group, and entering the country illegally. The pair were arrested in July while travelling with the ONLF, a separatist group formed in 1984 to make the eastern Ethiopian region of Ogaden an independent state.

GlobalPost: Swedish journalists deny terrorism charges, admit to illegal entrance 

The court acquitted the Swedes of conspiring to commit terrorist attacks Thursday but kept them in custody, saying they must still answer allegations that they assisted the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a group Ethiopia’s government deem as an outlawed separatist movement and off limits to journalists.

"Though the prosecutors have provided witnesses and evidence to support their accusation, the court does not believe it is substantial enough to prove that the journalists were involved in carrying out a terror attack," judge Sirgaga ruled.

Persson and Schibbye last month pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charges but admitted to crossing the border illegally.

Schibbye and Persson could be sentenced to 15 years in prison if convicted for aiding the ONLF.

The two outstanding charges will be challenged and up to eight witnesses to prove the journalists’ innocence will be provided, the pair’s lawyers said. Their next scheduled court appearance will be on December 6.