Ethiopia Frees Two Swedish Journalists Under Government Amnesty
Sept. 10 (Bloomberg) Two Swedish reporters jailed by Ethiopian authorities last year for supporting terrorism were among more than 1,900 prisoners pardoned today by the government, Justice Minister Berhan Hailu said.
The release of the prisoners on the eve of the Ethiopian New Year marks the end of a process started during the rule of former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Berhan told reporters in the
capital, Addis Ababa, today.
“Regarding the Swedish journalists, they are among the ones who will be released soon,” he said. “The journalists submitted petitions accepting they committed the crime.”
Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were arrested with members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front rebel group in July last year. The two freelance journalists were sentenced to
11 years each in December for supporting terrorism and entering the country illegally. Ethiopia’s government announced on Sept. 8 it’s in peace talks with the rebels, who have been fighting
since 1984 for more autonomy for the ethnic-Somali Ogaden people.
“This type of granting pardon to prisoners helps the state to ensure peace and stability, implement the constitution, and it also helps the prisoners to serve their families and contribute to the development of the country,” Berhan said.
More prisoners may be given amnesty in the coming months, said Ephraim Isaac, who is chairman of the National Coalition of Ethiopian Elders that helped facilitate talks between the
government and the Ogaden rebels. He declined to comment on the negotiations.
“We have been working on processing more pardons already in the time of the prime minister,” he said in an interview in the capital today. “We expect they will be completed.” (By William Davison)