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AFRICA: Ethiopia pardons Swedish journalists
JOURNALISM. (UPDATED) The Ethiopian government on Monday gave pardon to two Swedish journalists, reporter Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson, who last year were sentenced to eleven years in jail. The State Department in Addis Ababa released a note stating the two journalists are to be set free at a ceremony. Hours later, the journalists were reported to be at the Swedish embassy in the capital along with the Ambassador, Jens Odlander, who told the Swedish state radio that, “They seem to be fine. We,ve had food, and a beer. That’s about all I can tell you now.”
After being released from prison and having spent some time on the embassy, a car took the two Swedes to the airport where they were flown out of the country to a secret destination where they are supposed to rest for a while.
The journalists have been imprisoned for over a year, after having entered the country illegally from Somalia to report from the closed area of Ogaden, eastern Ethiopia.
The journalists were first arrested in July 2011, after having met with fighters from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebel group, flagged as a terrorist group by Ethiopia.
“Some 1,900 prisoners have been pardoned and are scheduled to be released in the coming days. The Swedish journalists are part of the group,” a source told Reuters.
The pair were acquitted of terrorism related charges after the court found they were not involved in carrying out any attacks, according to Reuters.
Addis Ababa often grants mass pardons and announces the decisions ahead of major holidays, in particular the Ethiopian New Year which is celebrated on September 11.