Swedish freelancers freed in Ethiopia

Thursday, 13 September 2012 Written by Rory Peck Trust

Swedish freelancers Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson have been freed in Ethiopia.

The journalists, who have been imprisoned for the past 14 months, were released after receiving a presidential pardon - apparently signed by former president of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi prior to his death on the 27th of August 2012.

Rumours of their release came first over the weekend on the 8th and 9th of September, after a list of 1,900 prisoners receiving a pardon was leaked to Reuters. As of Tuesday 10th of September 2012, they were out of the country and are scheduled to return to Sweden on Friday, 13th of September.

Martin, a freelance reporter, and Johan, a freelance photographer, were working in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, where, according to their agency, Kontinent they were looking into the dealings of a subsidiary of Swedish oil company, Lundin Petroleum.

They were captured and imprisoned on the 1st of July 2011 during what the Ethiopian authorities claims was a firefight with autonomist movement Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), which the government consider to be a terrorist group.

Convicted of entering the country illegally and aiding a known terrorist group in December 2011, Johan and Martin were sentenced to 11 years in prison. They did not deny entering the country illegally but have always argued that they were there to report.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, six journalists are currently being detained in the Ethiopia. Two of them are freelance: Eskinder Nega and Re'eyot Alemu.

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