Ethiopian officials deny the claim that they faked footage in order to get the two jailed Swedish reporters Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson convicted of terror charges, in interview with national Swedish broadcaster Sveriges Radio (SR).
“Why would we try to trick ourselves with a faked video? Our soldiers took them in and made sure that they were given a fair trial,” said Mulugeleta Ayalew, of the Ethiopian ministry of justice’s pardoning committee to SR.
The only evidence presented was that given to them by the soldiers who arrested the two Swedes in the Ogaden province:
“We got our only information from the soldiers who found them, it was no trap,” Ayalew said to SR, adding:
Neither did Ayalew believe that the trial was meant to serve as a warning to other foreign journalists thinking about reporting from Ogaden.
“The Ethiopian government has no reason to stop you from going there, as long as you have all permits in order. Ethiopia is an open country where everyone can move freely,” he told SR.
Ayalew told SR that their pardoning should be seen as a sign of goodwill between Sweden and Ethiopia, and may even serve to strengthen ties between the two countries.
Schibbye and Persson were arrested last year with rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) after illegally entering Ethiopia from Somalia.
The Swedes were in the remote southeastern region of Ogaden, populated mainly by ethnic Somalis, reportedly to investigate the activities of a company affiliated with the Swedish oil firm Lundin Petroleum.
The two Swedes were released from Ethiopian jail on Monday and after recuperating in another country for a few days will touch down on Swedish soil and be reunited with loved ones on Friday.
The Local/rm ([email protected])