David Smith

December 27, 2011

A court in Ethiopia has sentenced two Swedish journalists to 11 years in prison on charges of supporting terrorism after they illegally entered the country with a Somali rebel group.

Judge Shemsu Sirgaga ruled that Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, both freelancers, should suffer “rigorous imprisonment” following their convictions last week.

Ethiopian troops captured Persson, 29, and 31-year-old Schibbye six months ago. They were detained during a clash with rebels in Ogaden, eastern Ethiopia’s ethnic Somali region, where there has been a fight for independence since the 1970s.

The journalists claimed they were investigating alleged human rights abuses linked to the exploitation of oil and had been using the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebel group as guides in a region the Ethiopian authorities will not allow journalists to enter. Ethiopia recently designated the ONLF as a terrorist organisation.

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