Ethiopia charges Swedish journalists with terrorism

Wed Sep 7, 2011 2:47pm GMT

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Two Swedish journalists who illegally crossed into Ethiopia's Somali Region with rebels in July have been charged with promoting terrorism, an official said on Wednesday.

Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye entered the province from neighbouring Somalia with a team of fighters from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). They were subsequently wounded in a security operation which killed 15 rebels.

Addis Ababa has blacklisted the ONLF as a terrorist group, and recently-adopted anti-terror legislation outlaws "promotion" of the insurgents' activities.

"State prosecutors have charged them with assisting and promoting terrorism professionally, engaging and participating in terrorist conducts, and entering the country illegally without a permit," government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told Reuters.

Two rebel fighters detained during the operation also face the same charges, he added. The suspects will appear in court on October 17, a justice ministry spokesman said.

Envoys from the Swedish embassy in the capital were not immediately available for comment, but had previously confirmed they had access to the journalists.

The rebel group blamed the authorities in Somalia's neighbouring semi-autonomous region of Puntland, which enjoys close ties with Addis Ababa, for the journalists' arrest. They say Puntland notified Ethiopia of their movements.

The claims are difficult to verify because journalists and aid groups cannot move freely in the area.   Continued...

German journalist Alice Schwarzer (L) answers reporters questions after the last day of the trial against Swiss meteorologist and TV weather host Joerg Kachelmann outside the country court in Mannheim May 31, 2011.  UTERS/Alex Domanski
Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.