Ethiopia: Swedish journalists sentenced to 11 years in prison


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

An Ethiopian court has sentenced two Swedish journalists to 11 years in prison for supporting terrorism and illegally entering Ethiopia. 

Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, freelance journalists from Sweden, were sentenced to 11 years each of "rigorous imprisonment," Judge Shemsu Sirgaga ruled Tuesday, the Associated Press reported

"This sentence should satisfy the goal of peace and security," he told the court, according to Agence France-Presse

Persson, a photographer, and Schibbye, a reporter, were arrested in July while traveling with rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), which Ethiopia considers a terrorist group.

More from GlobalPost: Ethiopia court finds Swedish journalists guilty of supporting terrorism

The Swedes were convicted last week and faced a maximum sentence of 18 years and six months in prison.

AFP said the Swedes displayed no emotion at the sentencing, "as if in shock."

The trial and conviction of the Swedish journalists has been widely criticized by rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were simply doing their job as journalists and should not have spent a day in jail," CPJ East Africa consultant Tom Rhodes said in a statement. "Their trial is politicized and designed to curb any reporting on the sensitive Ogaden area."

The ONLF formed in 1984 with the goal of making Ethiopia's eastern region of Ogaden an independent state.

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

In November, the journalists were acquitted of conspiring to commit terrorist attacks.

According to their websites, Schibbye is a freelance journalist who has reported for Swedish publications and the Times of London, and Persson is a photojournalist for Kontinent, a Sweden-based agency.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has denied the Swedes are journalists, and accused them of being “messenger boys of a terrorist organization."

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