Judge backs Ethiopia's case vs. Swedish reporters

AP News
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Posted: Nov 03, 2011 1:42 PM
Judge backs Ethiopia's case vs. Swedish reporters

A judge in a trial against two Swedish journalists arrested in Ethiopia said Thursday he accepts the prosecution's argument that the pair were supporting a terrorist organization.

Judge Shemsu Sirgaga made the comments as the government's prosecution team closed its case at a trial in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital.

Ethiopian troops captured journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye during a clash with rebels in Ethiopia's restive east in July. Journalists are prohibited from traveling freely in Ogaden.

Persson and Schibbye, who face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, acknowledge they entered Ethiopia illegally. However, they have said they were gathering news at the time of their arrest. Their lawyer is to present their defense on Dec. 6.

The judge said the prosecution established that the two tried to assist the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which the Ethiopian government classifies as a terrorist group.

The judge said Persson and Schibbye met with key ONLF officials in London and Kenya and "marched into Ethiopia" with ONLF gunmen. He also said the pair violated migration laws and Ethiopia's national sovereignty by crossing the border illegally.

The lawyer for the two Swedes, Seleshi Kebsele, told the court that he would present eight witnesses in his clients' defense.

The judge also convicted two Somali defendants arrested with the Swedes on charges of terrorism, which is punishable by death. The defendants said they didn't have any evidence or witnesses to testify for them. The court is to announce their sentence on Friday.