News / Africa

Swedish Journalists' Terror Trial Opens in Ethiopia

It was standing room only Tuesday as a three-judge federal panel began hearing the case of Swedish journalists charged with terrorism by Ethiopian authorities after being arrested with members of an outlawed rebel group in the restive Ogaden region.

Among those present were 18 Swedish journalists who flew in from Stockholm, partly in a symbolic show of solidarity. A large contingent of Western diplomats was also in the courtroom, including U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Booth.

The two Swedes, freelance investigative reporter Martin Schibbye and photojournalist Johan Persson, were arrested in July in Ethiopia's Somali region while traveling with rebels of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which is fighting for regional autonomy. The government alleges the pair were not just journalists, but were actively supporting the rebels and has charged them under an anti-terrorism law.

The trial's brief opening session was adjourned to allow time for two surprise co-defendants to be given court-appointed lawyers. Lead defense attorney Sileshi Kesela told reporters he had used the opening session to demand the prosecution share evidence confiscated during the arrests, including a video shot by the defendants and their press credentials.

"It was the court which asked did you not receive any of the evidence, and we indicated we haven't received this and this evidence, one written material and one cassette," said Kesela.

The case is being keenly watched in Sweden, where Foreign Minister Carl Bildt is being accused of not having done enough to support the journalists.

Swedish media have reported the journalists were looking into alleged human rights violations by Ethiopian troops providing security for foreign companies searching for oil in the region. Among them is Lundin Petroleum, a Swedish firm where Bildt served as a board member before becoming foreign minister.

Bildt has called the charges part of a political campaign to discredit him. He has sent former Foreign Ministry legal director Carl Henrik Ehrenkrona as his personal representative in the case. Ehrenkrona declined to comment on reports he has been negotiating for the journalists' release.

Sweden's ambassador to Ethiopia Jens Odlander flatly rejected the charge that the Foreign Ministry has not done enough to secure the journalists' release.

"The political leadership in Stockholm is very engaged, and as you see the magistrate is a special envoy from the minister Carl Bildt, so I would take it as a personal insult to say we haven't done enough," he said.

Legal experts say they expect a quick resolution of the case, barring any delays in access to the evidence. One attorney close to the trial, who could not be identified because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said a negotiated settlement is still possible.

If convicted, the two Swedish journalists could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of engaging in terrorist activity. The trial is scheduled to resume Thursday.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid