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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs