Thursday, July 7, 2011

Swedish journalists face 'terrorism' accusation in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, July 6, 2011 (AFP) - Two Swedish journalists detained in Ethiopia will be tried for "terrorist activities" after they were arrested last week in the country's restive Ogaden region, an official said Wednesday.

Freelance journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were arrested on July 1 by Ethiopian police in the eastern city of Jijiga where they had gone on an assignment.

The journalists entered the region through Somalia with members of the rebel faction Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), opposed to the Ethiopian government.

"They will be tried according to the national law ... for the terrorist activities they were planning to undertake," Dina Mufti, a foreign affairs ministry spokesman, told AFP.

The exact charges have not been announced and the pair have not yet appeared in court.

Government spokesman Shimelis Kemal said the two were travelling with ONLF rebels when fighting broke out with Ethiopian troops in which 15 rebels were killed and six people injured including the journalists.

He explained that under Ethiopian anti-terrorism law, they may be held for up to four months with no charges laid. Under regular law, detainees must be charged within 72 hours of arrest.

Sweden's ambassador to Ethiopia visited the journalists on Monday and a group of Swedish diplomats will travel to Jijiga this week to "work with the authorities to find out what the charges are and, if taken to court, make sure they have legal representation," said Cecilia Julin, head of communications atSweden's foreign ministry.

The ONLF has been fighting for the independence of the remote southeastern Ogaden since its formation in 1984, claiming the region has been marginalised by the Addis Ababa regime.

The barren Ogaden region has long been extremely poor, but the discovery of gas and oil has brought new hopes of wealth as well as new causes of conflict.

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