Swedes made false apology to get out of Ethiopia jail
Back home after being imprisoned in Ethiopia for more than a year, two Swedish journalists yesterday dismissed their trial on terrorism charges as a “sham,” saying they accepted 11-year prison terms to improve their chances of being released.
Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson also said during a news conference that their apology on Ethiopian TV in connection with their release last week was not sincere.
“At that time we were still prisoners, and it was part of the process [of being freed]”, Mr Schibbye said. “I did not mean it.”
The two were arrested in the summer of 2011 while trying to cross from Somalia into Ethiopia’s Ogaden region along with fighters from the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front, which Ethiopia classes as a terrorist group.
In December, the pair were sentenced to 11 years each for abetting terrorism and entering the country illegally. They denied the terrorism charges, saying they were in Ethiopia simply to do their work as journalists.
“This is normal, traditional journalistic leg work,” Mr Schibbye said.
He added: “We were sentenced in a sham process to 11 years in prison.”
The Swedes said a video used as evidence against them supposedly showing the raid in which they were arrested was actually recorded days later and was staged by the Ethiopian army.
Mr Schibbye also said that in the days following the arrest an interrogation leader threatened to kill him in the desert.
“He said, ‘You will die here, we will shoot you here today if you don’t tell the truth’,” Mr Schibbye said.
Ethiopian foreign affairs ministry spokesman Dina Mufti called the journalists’ allegations “inaccurate” and “unacceptable”.
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