Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Ethiopia Convicts Swedish Journalists of Terrorism

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Ethiopia Convicts Swedish Journalists of Terrorism

Article excerpt

Rights groups protest the conviction of Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, saying Ethiopia is using its antiterrorism laws to silence dissent.

Two Swedish journalists face up to 15 years in an Ethiopian prison after they were found guilty of supporting terrorism today.

The successful prosecution under an anti-terror law has sparked protest from rights groups, who say the draconian 2009 legislation is being used to mount a renewed crackdown on legitimate dissent by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's two-decade-old government.

Over 100 detained opposition politicians and 6 Ethiopian journalists are also accused of terrorism-related crimes, according to Amnesty International.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt called for the immediate release of Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye today, saying they had been on a "journalistic mission."

The pair entered the country illegally in July with the intention of reporting on the activities of a Sweden-linked oil company, they testified. To gain access to the heavily restricted region, they linked up with rebels from the banned Ogaden National Liberation Front.

Preparation for the trip involved grilling an ONLF spokesman in London as to why the group attacked foreign oil companies and had not signed a peace treaty last year, Schibbye claimed. "I threw hardballs and direct questions require direct contact," he said. The government is having none of it. They "selectively tried to promote the cause of the ONLF," spokesman Shimeles Kemal said today.

According to the law - which the government says is based on international standards by the government, but which rights groups say is compiled by cherry-picking the most repressive articles from other statute books - supporting terrorism can include providing moral support or giving advice.

"The government chooses to interpret meeting with a terrorist organization as support of that group and therefore a terrorist act," says Claire Beston, Amnesty's Ethiopia researcher. …

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