Swedish journalists in Ethiopia freed
Reporter Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson, the two Swedes who have been jailed in Ethiopia since July 1, 2011, have been freed. It was announced that Addis Ababa has granted pardons to more than 1,950 Ethiopian prisoners as part of the Ethiopian New Year, which this year falls on September 11. Among them were the two Swedes, who were jailed while they attempted to illegally cross into Ethiopia from Somalia along with rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a group which Addis Ababa designates as a terrorist organization. The Swedes were sentenced to 11 years on charges of engaging in terrorist activities, promoting and aiding a terrorist group, and for entering the country illegally. The Swedes spent nearly 15 months behind bars. Ethiopian President Girma Woldegiorgisse signed the amnesty and grants were made to those who have shown sincere regret for the crimes they committed and to those who behaved well in the correction facility. It is speculated that the presence of Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Bildt at the funeral ceremony held for the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on September 2 might have created a good opportunity leading to their pardon grant, though Ethiopian authorities claim the grant was already approved before Zenawi died.