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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs