The two Swedish journalists sentenced in Ethiopia to 11 years in jail for entering the country illegally and aiding a rebel group decided on Tuesday to seek clemency rather than appeal, which they hope will lead to a quicker release. Reporter Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson were arrested in July after they entered Ethiopia's Ogaden province from Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region with the outlawed Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebel group fighters.
The case prompted anger among rights groups, which called for the men's release. The Swedish government, European Union and United States have expressed concern. "There is a tradition of clemency and pardon in Ethiopia and we choose to trust that tradition," the two men said in a short statement. Lawyers for the men have said a plea for clemency, if granted, would lead to a faster release than if they chose to appeal against the court verdict, which could have dragged the case out for up to two years.
Anna Roxvall, acting as a contact person for the men, said they did not know when the plea would be made. "They will first consult with their lawyers and people who are familiar with this tradition of clemency in Ethiopia about when is a good time and so on," she told Reuters.
Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has been criticised in the past for his connection to a Swedish oil company which had activities in Ogaden and Swedish media have questioned whether he has a conflict of interest in the case. Bildt was a board member of Lundin Oil and its successor Lundin Petroleum between 2000 and 2006. He has denied any conflict of interest. The two journalists said they were investigating the activities of another company in the Lundin Group in the Ogaden, which bought Lundin Petroleum's licences in Ethiopia in 2009. (Additional reporting by Mia Shanley; Editing by Alison Williams). Source (Reuters)